Four-peat URA Scholar Studies Drug Design Using Fungi
** Originally published in UMBC's Undergraduate Research Group**
Meet Garrett Hill, a FOUR-TIME URA Scholar!
Garrett attended Mount Hebron High School in Howard County, where he had the opportunity to participate in the Biotechnology Career Academy at the Applications and Research Laboratory (ARL) program and conduct research at UMBC during his senior year at Hebron. He is a senior Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major, a Meyerhoff Scholar, and conducts research in the Marten lab.
Research Title: Characterization of the PrkA Protein Kinase in Aspergillus nidulans
Describe your project:
My project aims to investigate the way that mold repairs its cell wall after damage and how the cell organizes structures related to this repair. New understandings gained through this research can contribute to how we use fungi to make drugs and enzymes and may even help others to design new antifungal medications.
Who is your mentor for your project?
I work with Dr. Mark R. Marten in the Department of Chemical, Biochemical, and Environmental Engineering. As a high school senior, I was a part of a program that allowed me to participate in research at neighboring institutions, and I came across Dr. Marten and his lab when searching for research I may be interested in. After meeting and talking about the work done in the lab, something that stood out to me was how Dr. Marten stressed the importance of project ownership. Being the “expert” in the lab on a project gives students a unique level of both responsibility and drive, and this is what drew me to joining his lab.
How did you become interested in this project?
Before starting work on this project, I had assisted some graduate students with their projects, and that’s when I learned that I had an interest in both the molecular genetics and the fluorescence microscopy that we do in our lab. This project seemed to combine both interests, so I decided to choose it when looking for a project of my own.
What has been the hardest part about your research/what was the most unexpected thing about being a researcher?
Something that really took getting used to was the number of setbacks I faced in my project. I quickly learned that in research, it takes many tries to get something right, and failure became much more familiar to me throughout my journey as an undergraduate researcher.
What has been the most rewarding part?
I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to engage in research at almost every stage a projects life. I started with comprehensive literature reviews, where I then formulated my own hypotheses, and under the guidance of my mentor, I designed experiments to test these hypotheses. I also got experience communicating my science in conferences and presentations, allowing me to get a great view of what research really feels like.
How will you disseminate your research?
I plan to present my research next spring at URCAD and look forward to the prospect of attending conferences to potentially present my work.
What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
I think getting involved in research can seem a little daunting at first, so I would recommend that people just take the leap! There is a lot of exciting research being done at UMBC, so I would say to just see what’s out there and if something seems interesting, reach out to the lab to see if you can get involved. Now is the time to experiment and see what you want to do in your career, and there are many mentors here that could help you on that journey.
What are your career goals?
After graduating UMBC, I plan to pursue a PhD in microbiology. The prospect of staying in academia and becoming a mentor for others is exciting to me, but I also look forward to exploring what other career paths I might be able to follow after graduate school.
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Posted: September 15, 2023, 3:07 PM