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During the fall semester of my junior year as a Molecular Genetics major at Fredonia, I began a research project related to my specific interests within the field. This independent project has allowed me to do more advanced and focused work in micro and molecular biology than a classroom setting would allow.

My research uses 16S rRNA gene sequence analysis to identify microorganisms present in biofilms along the banks of Canadaway Creek. While working on this project, I learned skills and techniques that would be useful in any molecular biology lab and was exposed to real life applications of the principles and functions of biology class work.

The initial exposure to this world of research prompted me to consider a career in the field, so I began to look into summer internships that would aid my resume and offer me real world lab experience. I was accepted into a 10 week summer research training program (Research Experience for Undergraduates, REU for short) at Virginia Tech sponsored by the National Science Foundation. While there, I worked in a molecular microbiology lab that uses Myxococcus xanthus as a model organism to study type IV pili (T4P). My project involved constructing a novel expression vector to be used in later genetic studies in M. xanthus to further elucidate the biology of proteins comprising the T4P machinery. REU programs are great experiences for anyone who is excited about specific areas of research that normally wouldn’t be able to come into contact with unless pursuing graduate studies.

Before my REU at Virginia Tech, I didn’t know what graduate level research entailed. I had serious doubts about whether or not I wanted to pursue research as a career and commit to something like grad school. My research experiences this past summer helped to clarify these concerns, allowed me to contextualize myself within an environment of serious academic research and provided me with real world experience that will allow me to make a well informed decision about my future in the discipline.

Going into my senior year, my experiences with serious and focused research helped clearly define my goals and move forward with plans to continue graduate work in the field with an idea of what is in store. I would never have qualified for an REU, or even considered the possibility of pursuing research as an undergrad if not for my initial research experiences at Fredonia. I certainly would not be as prepared for graduate studies if I hadn’t first gained invaluable hands on experience at both Fredonia and Virginia Tech.

Nick Catanzaro
Molecular Genetics major, Class of 2013

Biology Department

  • 221 Science Center State University of New York at Fredonia Fredonia, NY 14063

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