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Mastering Laboratory Skills

Katarina Micin (’20) spent three years as an undergraduate student in the lab of Barry Bruce investigating ways to cryopreserve diverse cyanobacteria. In the lab, researchers use various photosynthetic cyanobacteria to conduct experiments. Micin was responsible for maintaining and harvesting the bacterial cultures and investigating the impact diverse cryoprotectant solutions and other variables had on long- and short-term cryopreservation of these cyanobacteria.

Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic bacteria that account for much of the oxygen we breathe and carbon dioxide fixed from the atmosphere. In ancient earth, they were the organisms that provided enough oxygen in the atmosphere for life as we know it to evolve. The Bruce lab has a long-term interest in understanding photosynthesis in diverse cyanobacteria and an important part of this is to be able to preserve bacterial samples.

Micin won the Division of Natural Sciences Award for Excellence for her poster presentation at EURēCA Micin won the Division of Natural Sciences Award for Excellence for her poster presentation at EURēCA in May and the 2020 Western Photosynthesis Conference Undergraduate Poster Award. She is likely to be an author on several papers. She graduated in May and began her graduate work in anatomical and translational sciences at George Washington University. When she graduates, she plans to enter medical school for an MD or MD/PhD.

“As a member of Dr. Barry Bruce’s lab, I conducted research centered on the establishment of a universal cryopreservation protocol for diverse cyanobacterial species, which was extremely beneficial for me as a scientist,” Micin says. “I am now starting a master’s program involving research work and plan on continuing work in research once I enter the medical field. Working as an undergraduate research assistant provided me with the exposure needed to better master laboratory skills and a learning environment with graduate mentors (and an extremely helpful and involved faculty mentor) who offered essential guidance and support. I would encourage all undergraduates to find a lab and participate in research, as it provides access to knowledge and hands-on experience that is otherwise not attainable. My most memorable experience in the Bruce lab was attending the Western Photosynthesis Conference in Bodega Bay, California. Being able to travel with the research team and not only present my own research, but also be able to listen to other accomplished scientists’ work, was both an enlightening and very fun experience.”