In celebration of Student Research Week (March 23-27) at Texas A&M University, the College of Science has been taking five with five different people involved in various aspects and stages of research at Texas A&M and beyond. Today's concluding segment features Alan B. Romero '14, a senior molecular and cell biology major from San Antonio who is conducting independent research in Texas A&M biologist Mark Zoran's laboratory on the annelid worm Lumbriculus variegatus. Romero is set to graduate in May and is interested in continuing on to graduate school to pursue a career in scientific research, tentatively neuroscience.

The annelid project -- the subject of Zoran's doctoral dissertation at Iowa State University -- is unique in Zoran's lab in that it is the sole responsibility of undergraduate students. What started in 1999 with a biomedical engineering student doing a class project has spanned 10 Aggies undergrads across multiple majors -- including biology, biomedical sciences, biochemistry and neuroscience -- and two high school students during the past decade. Each has worked on various aspects of the project, which studies circadian rhythms, sleep, metabolism and regeneration as well as learning and memory. Here is Romero's take on his segment of the ongoing endeavor:

How long have you been involved in undergraduate research, and why did you choose Dr. Mark Zoran's lab?
"I have been involved in research for two years now. I chose Dr. Mark Zoran's lab for his amazing research in regeneration and systems-level plasticity on the annelid worm, Lumbriculus variegatus. My fascination with neural plasticity as well hands-on training was the main driving force to be in his lab."

What project(s) are you currently working on in Dr. Zoran's lab?
"The current project I am currently working on with Dr. Zoran is the effects of sleep deprivation on ventilation beahavior, neural regeneration and metabolic rate in the annelid worm Lumbriculus variegatus."

What are your favorite aspects of your project(s) and lab research in general?
"My favorite aspect of working with Dr. Zoran is his amazing capability to describe very difficult processes in very simple terms. Working with him has been an invaluable experience in which I've learned many valuable lessons, including how to conduct research and to never give up."

What do you hope to do in your future, and how do you think being involved in research has helped to prepare you?
"I hope to one day go to medical school where I can become a neurologist and contribute to the progress in knowing more about the brain. Working with Dr. Zoran has helped me improve my critical thinking skills as well as my ability to listen and learn from new experiences. I believe all these skills will help me in the future, not only by being more comfortable in the lab, but also by being able to utilize the skills I've acquired to one day provide a major impact in further study of the brain."

What would you tell other students who are considering undergraduate research?
"I would tell any undergrad considering doing undergraduate research to go for it and to experience and learn a wealth of knowledge by working on a lab."

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Now in its 18th year, Student Research Week is a friendly competition that highlights both undergraduate and graduate research at Texas A&M, one of the country's top research universities. The weeklong celebration fosters an environment for students, faculty and administrators to learn about student research at Texas A&M and also gives students an opportunity to win numerous awards and cash prizes. To learn more about the week's schedule and specific events, go to http://srw.tamu.edu/.

For more information on undergraduate research in the College of Science, go to http://www.science.tamu.edu/research/undergraduate/index.php.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Annelid worms in a micro aquarium. Most are "sleeping." When at rest, they extend their tails up into the water column in order to enhance oxygen uptake and also cryptically appear as sticks to avoid predation while "asleep."

  • Romero's work, displayed via the traditional research poster.

© Texas A&M University. To request use of any of our photographs for educational use or to view additional options from our archive, please contact the College of Science Communications Office.

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