A year ago today, I was in the process of approaching my current undergraduate thesis advisor in order to secure a spot in his herpetology/neurobiology lab. We had corresponded multiple times over the summer and I was setting up a meeting with him to discuss research ideas. I had decided that taking a thesis course was the right path for me because I wanted practical research experience.
I had to come up with an original scientific research project that I would work on over the course of the final year of my undergraduate degree. This is taken from the course outline:
This two-semester course is intended to provide a deeper, more focused research experience than that provided in the project courses or in typical upper-level lecture courses
and is offered for students of excellent academic standing who possess a strong interest in pursuing postgraduate training in biological research.
My thesis advisor, who specializes in neurobiology, had previously been working on amphibians, which is the main reason I approached him. You see, the first time I asked my parents for a snake was around the age of 5. As a toddler, animals of any type fascinated me but amphibians and, more specifically, reptiles, were my first true love. My parents undoubtedly hoped that I would grow out of my obsession for such “unsightly” creatures but, alas, that day never came. My mother thought them revolting, and my father, who is Trinidadian, thought it absurd to pay and care for an animal that is considered a pest in his country of origin. I kept asking them for the privilege of owning a scaly friend or two, but they never relented.
I must say that although they would never allow me to bring a reptile into the house, they did see my curiosity about the animal kingdom as something to be cultivated and encouraged. To their credit, they took me numerous times to zoos, pet shops and even the odd reptile farm. I’m sure they never imagined I would end up working in a herpetology laboratory, however.
With the help of my thesis advisor, I came up with a research idea and question that would explore how vision and olfaction interact in Red Backed salamander conspecific interactions. This means that I would try to find out how their sense of smell and their vision contribute to their interactions with each other under certain specific conditions that will be discussed in another post.
This blog will thus serve as a forum for me to share my experience as a fourth year student exploring the world of scientific research. More importantly, however, this blog is a vessel through which I hope to hone my writing skills in order to become a science journalist. I will therefore also report on interesting new scientific research as well as science topics that I hope you will find as exciting as I do.