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2012 REU Program Participant Profiles: Jessica Welch

Jessica Welch photo.

Majors: Mathematics, Statistics
School: University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Hometown: Kingsport, TN
REU Research Project: Harnessing the arsenal of nature: Developing natural pesticides

What is the purpose of your research?
My group is trying to grow spores of a certain fungus in the presence of five different oils. These oils protect plants when they are young. The fungus does not protect plants when they are young, but it does when the plants grow older, so in the long-term. The problem is that we don't know if combining the oils and the fungal spores (to protect the plants in both their early and their later years) will work. The oils may inhibit spore germination. We also don't know which oil is the best, and how much of it to use. However, if we find that the spores can grow in the presence of one of the oils, then theoretically we would be able to grow plants with both the oil and fungal spores. The oil and fungal spores would be acting as "natural pesticides."

Math can be fun! When I’m working on real-life problems and applying what I know to my work, it is exciting, and I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.
– Jessica Welch, REU participant

Tell us something about your field we would be surprised to know:
Math can be fun! When I’m working on real-life problems and applying what I know to my work, it is exciting, and I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.

What were your favorite parts of the REU program?
I love making new friends, and because it's such a small group, we all bond over the summer.

What new experiences did you gain that have helped you today?
I got to experience research in a laboratory setting. As a math major, I don't get many chances to work in a lab, so now I can also say that I know how to conduct research, not just analyze it.

What advice would you give someone who's interested/curious about participating in the program?
Apply! Grad schools are looking for students who already have some experience with research, and this REU [program] will help you stand out.

Would you recommend our program to others?
Yes. Even if you're not sure you're interested in research, don't wait until you're already in grad school to find out. Plus, you’ll meet lots of new people, and make connections that will help you in the future.


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NSF logo. NIMBioS is sponsored by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
 
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