Hi everyone! My name is Andrea and I’m a 5th year Masters student and recent graduate here at UMass. As an undergraduate, I wanted to be involved in on-campus research working with microbes, but I was unsure how to get my foot in the door. I knew getting involved in research required networking and strong connections with professors. However, I felt the task daunting, as all my professors were running lectures with more than 300 other students. Furthermore, my major contains a vast array of sub-topics and I had no idea which direction I wanted to take in terms of research. I wanted to make sure I would be choosing a laboratory that I would be excited about, and not just pick the first opportunity I saw. One day scrolling through my peer advisor’s monthly email, I came across the link for BUA.
I found the BUA program to be an excellent resource for reaching out to professors whose research interested me. I looked through each laboratory profile carefully and was able to find all the information I needed to choose just 3 labs to apply for. Soon after applying I received an email asking for an interview from Dr. Jeffrey Blanchard’s lab studying soil microbiology as it relates to ecology and climate change. Although this topic was relatively new to me, I was able to explain in detail my enthusiasm for microbiology, and what my current skills could bring to the lab. Upon hearing my genuine interest, Dr. Blanchard invited me to join the lab as an undergraduate researcher.
I’ve worked in the Blanchard lab for about 3 years and I have gained invaluable laboratory and computational skills outside of my regular courses. Being in the lab allowed me to apply for the accelerated Master’s program in Microbiology. The program requires a preplanned research project and mentor who you are well-established with to study for one year instead of the typical two to complete a Master’s degree. For the next academic year, I will be isolating soil ‘giant’ viruses using protist co-culture systems for a thesis that I will present to a committee of faculty. Without BUA I would not have had the opportunity to be a part of such a beneficial program.