Thursday, April 3, 2014

URSP Student Kiera Coy Develops and Evaluates Genetic Markers for Phylogenetic Reconstruction in Myrrh Genus, Commiphora

The greatest asset of my scientific acumen is the insatiable desire to close the “unknown to self” gap of my Johari window. I didn't initially believe that my primary interest was in evolutionary studies, however after taking Biodiversity with Professor Birchard, I became fascinated with the idea that all life on Earth was interconnected and the creation of phylogenies. I am very curious about this area of research because of the boundless opportunities presented in this field where there is a lot of unknowns. I specifically want to research more and learn about how scientist use molecular biology to piece together the evolutionary history of life. This project is a part of Morgan Gostel's research and with his guidance I began piecing together a species-level phylogeny for the myrrh genus, Commiphora, a flowering plant found in Madagascar.

Being granted the opportunity to pursue my own research project as an undergraduate student has confirmed my ambitions about being a scientist. The knowledge about the scientific process I have obtained through creating and troubleshooting my research project and working with my mentor, has been very beneficial to my academic and professional development. As an aspiring scientist, I plan to expand my academic findings by pursuing a PhD in Biology and this project will be a great leap in my pursuit of academic advancement as well as a tool to fine tune my scientific processing skills.

I meet with my mentor on a weekly basis and read published scientific papers that relate directly to my research, and data collection of the genes I will be analyzing. An important part of my research experience is that I have noticed a drastic positive change of my research methods since submitting my grant to OSCAR. Through collaborating with other scientists at Mason and other universities, my mentor and I have found a way to simplify our gene comparison process. Thanks to these other collaborators, my research should soon be completed, hopefully with great results!