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Biological Sciences Student Expands Research Experience

Last Updated on October 01, 2018 at 12:00 AM

Originally published October 01, 2018

By Ruta Grinceviciute

Senior, Biological Sciences

Driven by curiosity and in search of more knowledge, I wanted to get outside UTEP this summer and explore new laboratories. North Carolina State University provided me with this unique opportunity, and the Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) program made it happen.

Ruta Grinceviciute
Ruta Grinceviciute

I had the great honor to conduct my six-week Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in the laboratory of Heather Patisaul, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences at NCSU in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her research focused on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) such as bisphenol A (BPA) and Firemaster 550 (FM 550) and how they affect sexually dimorphic neuroendocrine pathways and social behaviors.

After arriving at N.C. State, Dr. Patisaul assigned me to help one of her doctoral students who was studying the mechanisms by which developmental exposure to FM 550 affects neuroendocrine pathways in female and male prairie voles. I did not expect to learn that FM 550, a fire-retardant mixture used in foam-based baby products and furniture, is a common contaminant in household dust and results in widespread human exposure. Its toxicity might lead to various neurological deficits and behavioral and cognitive impairments in humans.

The research I was assisting with and the people from other laboratories at N.C. State University tested and challenged my knowledge and skills. Living away from my family pushed me outside my comfort zone and helped me to identify my strengths and weaknesses, which ultimately made me mentally stronger. I do believe that it is very important and valuable to be exposed to different ideas, work practices and environments, which contribute to academic and professional growth.

Because of my hard work and contributions, the team invited me to participate in the Triangle Society of Neuroscience’s anniversary party, where I had a great opportunity to meet and talk to neuroscientists, postdoctoral researchers and doctoral students. While there, I heard many inspiring stories about the challenges people face throughout their careers, which offered perspective on the importance of being positive, persistent and open to different things.

I also went to the Duke Lemur Center located at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. The center is home to the world’s largest and most diverse lemur population outside of Madagascar. I had an amazing tour in which I walked among sifakas, as well as other lemur species, while observing their feeding habits and affiliative behaviors. I also had an opportunity to see aye-aye, the largest nocturnal primate, and fat-tailed dwarf lemurs, which hibernate for an extended period. It was a truly breathtaking experience.

To conclude, I had an amazing six-week summer research experience at N.C. State, which positively influenced my academic future. I highly recommend to all undergraduate students to get experience outside of UTEP. It will benefit them in their future endeavors.

Read about more Vocation Vacations experiences.