I won an undergraduate award at the Undergraduate Research Fair as a first-year and first-generation student. I was very excited and passionate to share this research!
I am studying melanin production in polyextremotolerant fungi. What this means is that these fungi are using melanin (like the pigment in our skin) to protect themselves from the very harsh conditions they live in. They come from biological soil crusts, ours specifically are from an arctic desert in Canada, where they live with several other neighbors including cyanobacteria. During the characterization of two novel species, nicknamed Goopy and Slimy, we noticed that they secrete melanin into their environment. After several studies we concluded that melanin secretion is induced by nitrogen. We believe that cyanobacteria (a nitrogen fixer) is acting as a provider for them in exchange for a protective environment of secreted melanin. I am continuing my research independently this summer where I will be studying further into nitrogen sources and melanin secretion.
I will be continuing next academic year under UCARE. I am also planning to continue research next summer by applying for REU and I am hoping to go to a coastal state to dip my toes into marine biology.
I am very, very grateful for my mentor Erin Carr, my PI Dr. Wayne Riekhof, and Mrs. Marianna Burks who have all helped me and been a tremendous source of support and resources.