Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Why did you apply to the SRE program?
I applied to the program because I believe that the NIMBioS SRE would provide me with the perfect environment to acquire research experience in the areas of statistics and data science. The opportunity to work in a publishable scientific study with experts of diverse fields was invaluable to me.
What is the purpose of your research?
In tropical forests, animals are hunted for their meat and the pet trade, while plants are harvested for products such as rattan and medicinal herbs. In these areas, there exist diverse animal-plant pairs that depend on each other to survive. For example, animals can serve as seed dispersal agents for plants while also using these plants as a source of food. We have built a model that mathematically replicates these interdependences and projects how plant and animal populations will behave under different harvest pressures.
What does the research ultimately accomplish? What contributions to science and/or humanity does the research ultimately make?
Our research introduces an innovative way to model the effect of different harvesting pressures on animal-plant pairs, which present a mutualistic relationship. We have also developed a sensitivity analysis to comprehend what parameters are dominant in order to have a broader understanding of the interactions within the system. These key parameters can help us decide what kind of management policies are most appropriate for each specific pair. Furthermore, the predominant parameters indicate what animal and plant species are the most vulnerable to harvest pressures, and we can look at the geographical locations of these species to identify susceptible habitats.
Describe a typical day on the job.
My group meets in the morning to discuss individual concerns and goals for that specific day. We like to work together, so we spend most of the day in one of the offices at NIMBioS. Throughout the day, we read scientific papers and work in the programming aspects of our model. We either work on the same piece of code together, or we program individually and share our results. We often prepare informal progress reports for our mentors, with whom we meet two or three times a week for about an hour.
What were your favorite parts of the SRE program?
I greatly enjoyed the diversity of the SRE program. It was profoundly inspirational to interchange ideas and approaches with bright students from different places who are also passionate about mathematics and biology. I also enjoyed working under the guidance of the august mentors and the seminars offered during the program. In addition, I loved the social activities provided as a way to learn more about the background of other SRE students as well as the gorgeous scenery of Knoxville.
What new experiences did you gain that have helped you today?
One of the most valuables experiences I gained is teamwork. Working with students of different backgrounds throughout the summer, I had the opportunity to strengthen my communication skills. I also expanded my knowledge of R, and I learned how to program collaboratively utilizing Git and GitHub. In addition, NIMBioS provided numerous workshops on modeling and Matlab.
What advice would you give someone who's interested in/curious about participating in the program?
I think that If you are considering the option of pursuing graduate school, the NIMBioS SRE program is one of the best experiences that you can gain. You will have the opportunity to explore topics from different angles and reaffirm what you want to do for your future. Don't worry if you don't have previous research experience, but make sure that you convey a sense commitment to learning and science when you write the application essay. Finally, start developing mentoring relationships with professors at your school early, so you can obtain great recommendations letters.
Would you recommend our program to others?
Definitely! This has been one of the most interesting summers of my life. I had the chance to work in the field I am passionate about while working with other highly motivated students and prestigious mentors. In addition, I forged great relationships with other SRE students and I explored Knoxville and the Smokey Mountains during the weekends.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
The NIMBioS SRE program has reaffirmed my desire to peruse a PhD at the intersection of statistics and computer science. So, throughout the next ten years, I expect to obtain my PhD and, perhaps, a postdoctorate. Eventually, I would like to have a research job, either in academia or industry.