Hometown: Roy, Utah
Undergrad Education: B.S. in Zoology from Weber State University (Ogden, Utah)
Superpower(s): Rodent wrangling & small mammal photography
Dream Job: Wildlife Biologist
- What is the focus of your research?
My research with Dr. Loren Hayes is focused on the social organization of degus (Octodon degus), which is a rodent endemic to Chile. Degus can live either solitary, in male-female pairs, or in groups. I am exploring what drives this variable social organization in degus using a long-term dataset. Additionally, I will be giving special attention to groups containing multiple males, as this is less common in degus than other social organizations. My goal is to determine what factors might influence the formation of these multiple-male groups, as well as variable social organization as a whole for this species. This research has potential to assist in understanding the evolution of sociality in degus, as well as predict future social organization patterns.
- What inspired you to write an NSF GRFP proposal?
I came from a small undergraduate university where not too many people are aware of these types of opportunities. So, when I was told about the NSF GRFP (by potential graduate school advisors), I thought I should at least take a chance at applying. I knew that even though I didn't come from a big university, I had worked really hard in my program and had a lot of research experience.
- What was the most challenging part of the NSF GRFP proposal process?
I chose to write my proposal during my senior year of my undergraduate degree. So, the most challenging part was finding time to fit in my schoolwork, undergrad research, and write the proposal. However, I just kept telling myself that it would be worth it in the end. When I look back on that time, I am so glad I tried and kept with the process, because receiving the NSF GRFP has made my life easier in the end.
- How does the NSF GRFP impact your research and education?
I don't have to worry if I will have funding or not. So, I feel secure and that allows me to focus my energy more on my research and academics. Additionally, it kind of gives me a boost in my confidence. The review board saw something in my application and that helps to motivate me, even when a task or class is difficult. Being a recipient of the NSF GRFP also has additional perks, like additional funding and mentor opportunities, which is nice.
- What advice can you give to other students about preparing research proposals?
First and foremost, take the risk and apply. It might seem like a long/difficult process, but it's worth the effort. Make sure to read all of the instructions and really tailor your proposal to what they are looking for. Make sure to read a lot of example proposals, look for similarities between successful proposals and incorporate those similarities into your own proposal. You can reach out to others who received the fellowship for advice and search websites for proposal examples.