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  • Animal Science

Animal Science undergraduate, Alina Galyon '22, was recently awarded a fellowship through the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Galyon '22 shares more about the award and what it means to her.

Tell us about the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program!

The NSF GRFP recognizes and supports outstanding prospective and current graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing doctoral degrees. The GRFP provides three years of funding amounting to $138,000 and opportunities for international research and professional development. The reputation of the GRFP follows recipients and often helps them become lifelong leaders that contribute significantly to scientific innovation and teaching.

I definitely encourage any undergraduate senior involved in research and thinking of going to graduate school to apply in the fall before graduate school applications!

 

What does this fellowship mean to you?

Earning this award was definitely the greatest achievement in my scientific career thus far. Since the fellowship funds the student and not a particular project, earning a GRFP as an undergraduate means you have the freedom to conduct your research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education that you have been admitted to.

I ultimately wrote my research proposal as an extension of a project I worked on over the summer of 2021 in the Santangelo Lab at Colorado State University. The project aims to elucidate the mechanisms of DNA repair in extremophilic Archaea. There exists a significant knowledge gap in the mechanisms that equip these organisms and many other Archaea to thrive and successfully repair DNA damage in extreme damage-inducing environments. The goal of my project specifically is to comprehensively detail the path of archaeal Nucleotide Excision Repair (NER) using a variety of biochemistry, microbiology, and molecular biology techniques.

After such incredible experiences in the Santangelo Lab, I decided to return to CSU for my Ph.D. in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology to continue the project as a graduate student.

What mentors at Cornell have had a significant impact on your academic experience?

I have been extremely lucky to have found two wonderful female mentors in STEM that encouraged me to pursue a career in research. They ultimately shaped my future as a scientist by transforming my awe into active exploration. For the sake of fostering clichés, it is safe to say that I truly would not be where I am today as a scientist without their guidance.

I have been in Dr. Heather Huson’s Odyssey DNA Lab in the Cornell CALS Department of Animal Science for just over two years now. I started in her lab on the Sled Dog project, and when I expressed interest in gaining wet lab experience, she had me train in the lab during the spring of 2021. I fell in love with the lab experience and gain valuable technical skills that proved useful in my summer internship. I returned in the fall to begin my independent honors thesis project, investigating the genetic basis of distichiasis in Golden Retrievers. I  learned so much from her over the years and have watched in awe as she trailblazed as a woman in STEM.

Dr. Linda Nicholson was also a pivotal character during my Cornell experience. To my surprise, her Principles of Biochemistry course (BioMG 3310) made me fall in love with the field. It was one of my favorite courses and I even became a TA for her this past fall. Her enthusiasm and passion when talking to me about her experiences in biochemistry inspired my resolve to bring my scientific ambitions to fruition.

 

Where do you find enjoyment outside your field of study?

I love the outdoors and spend my free time hiking, camping, rock climbing, skiing, and running. I am also a member of the Cornell Club Tennis team and try to play as often as I can! I enjoy cooking, playing board games with friends and family, and reading for fun.

I am also a passionate mentor and look forward to the many teaching opportunities in grad school. I have plans to become involved in science outreach and education for kids to engage the next generation of scientists!

 

Catherine Andreadis ’22 is a student writer for the Cornell CALS Department of Animal Science.

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