Undergrad makes the most of exceptional research opportunity

This summer, Aneysis Gonzalez was one of only two Florida students selected to participate in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s (HHMI) Exceptional Research Opportunities Programs (EXROP).

Since 2003, EXROP has used the resources of HHMI’s Science and Science Education programs to provide outstanding summer research experiences for undergraduate students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.

Encouraged by her mentors Laird Kramer, director of FIU’s STEM Transformation Institute and Ophelia Weeks, director of the Quantifying Biology in the Classroom program at FIU, Gonzalez spent the summer at Stanford University’s School of Medicine in California working in the Thomas Südof Laboratory.

“I worked approximately 50-60 hours a week, not because I was forced to, expected to or even asked to but simply because science doesn’t really have a specific stop point,” Gonzalez said. “However, I learned from this experience that no matter how lonely the laboratory got or how late in the day I was up finishing my experiments, I was always very content to be there.”

While at Stanford, Gonzalez worked on three different genotyping techniques used to validate that the mouse strain produced was, in fact, a mutated mouse species that could then be used for further experiments related to the function of certain proteins in the brain related to Autism and Parkinson’s disease. She presented her findings to peers and other scientists in a poster session at HHMI headquarters.

“My stay at Stanford University taught me the importance of mentorship and guidance and how much I enjoyed working in an environment that offers both collaboration and individualistic working forms,” Gonzalez said. “I also learned how crucial perseverance and resilience are in the world of science and how much this career depends on your desire for discovery and a person’s curiosity.”

Gonzalez is a junior biological sciences major with a double minor in chemistry and psychology. A member of the Honors College, she hopes to pursue a medical degree in electrophysiology and a Ph.D. in neural science after completing her undergraduate studies.

— By Ayleen Barbel Fattal