On October 27, the Barnard Biology Department welcomed students to the annual Barnard Biology Fair, where students could explore the various offerings of the department. From program planning, where students were informed on the Spring 2024 course offerings, to a luncheon, where Biology majors, prospective majors, staff, and faculty socialized over lunch, the day equipped students with the knowledge they needed to make informed decisions about their academic paths.

The event also housed an Undergraduate Research Panel, where students had the unique opportunity to hear from their peers who had already delved into scientific research. The panel featured students in various stages of their undergraduate careers, each discussing their research projects, the inspiration behind their work, and the challenges they had overcome.

Image features four Barnard Biology student researchers who served as panelists.
Sitting from left to right, panelists Kristi Xing, Izzie Martinez, Sylvie Oldeman, and Asstan Cisse.

Kristi Xing, a sophomore majoring in Computational Biology, conducted summer research in the Ellington lab at the University of Austin in Texas. Kristi’s research primarily lies in the computational domain, where she employs AI models like neural networks to generate predictions related to protein folding, interactions between drugs and proteins, and the roles of proteins and chemicals. She is currently conducting research on the development of neural circuits related to locomotion in Drosophila in the Mann Lab at the Zuckermann Institute. A critical piece of advice Kristi offers is for students to explore research topics outside of their chosen major, citing lab websites as a resource for students to learn more about ongoing research. 

Izzie Martinez, a senior majoring in Biology and Gender Studies, has been researching in the Pischedda lab since Fall 2021. She has also conducted research in the 2022 and 2023 SRI. Now, she is researching the impact of genetic variation in male mate choice on male reproductive fitness for her Senior Thesis Research project with assistance from the Sigma Xi Grant-in-Aid-of-Research. Izzie invites students to keep an open mind as they cold-email potential labs they may be interested in and to schedule meetings with researchers within the lab to gauge the working environment.

Sylvie Oldeman, a junior majoring in Cellular and Molecular Biology and a minor in Science & Public Policy currently works in the Schvartzman lab, where she explored the crossroads of metabolism and epigenetics in regular physiological processes, which govern cell differentiation and the integrity of chromatin. She also examines how alterations in metabolism can influence the field of cancer biology, potentially giving rise to opportunities for therapeutic interventions. Before joining a lab, she suggests that students identify which mentorship style works best for them, as different labs offer different degrees of mentor involvement.

Asstan Cisse, a sophomore majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, discussed her summer research in the Eaton lab at Columbia University. In this project, Asstan explored the impacts and outcomes of interspecific pollination interactions on plant reproductive processes. She also received the Biology Department mini-grant, allowing her to conduct fieldwork concerning her research. She encourages students to not be afraid to ask questions; knowledge is gained through asking questions and expanding one's sphere of thought. 

Student researcher Maya Schonberg shares her research experience with prospective researchers.
Student researcher Maya Schonberg shares her research experience with prospective researchers.

After the undergraduate research panel, the event culminated with a meet and greet; students were able to meet and engage with twenty-one Barnard Biology student researchers; from conducting surgery on mice to revolutionizing our understanding of stem cells, these researchers carry diverse and accomplished experiences. This informal gathering allowed for one-on-one conversations, fostering a sense of community and mentorship within the department. Students were able to discuss research ideas, ask questions about the field, and even inquire about potential research opportunities in ongoing projects. The meet and greet served as a bridge connecting the curious minds of the student body with the wealth of knowledge and experience possessed by the faculty and researchers.