They come from nearby towns and from as far away as Venezuela. Their dreams encompass fields that range from medicine, dentistry and biotechnology to marine science, endangered species protection and behavioral ecology.
Over the past several years, these 22 biology students have conducted biology research under the direction of Professor Bronwyn Heather Bleakley, whose lab focuses largely on guppies and who last year was awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Grant worth $899,000.
Collectively they reflect the culture of research at Stonehill, which encourages students across all disciplines to take advantage of the opportunity to engage as an undergraduate in graduate-level explorations of the topics at the heart of their education.
“There is nothing like research at Stonehill College,” says one of the students, Jackson Reilly ’16. “It's not just sitting around making reagents. It's designing a project, managing that project, and achieving. Pair that with writing a thesis on all you did and you've truly done something that students at few institutions are able to do.”
It’s the kind of experience Bleakley believes should be as widely accessible as possible. To that end she has made a commitment to connecting students from diverse and underrepresented populations to STEM fields and mentoring them to achieve undergraduate and post-graduate success. Under her guidance, dozens of students have worked in her laboratory.
Scroll through the slideshow below to learn more about these student researchers and the career goals to which this lab experience has moved them closer.
Jessica Mitchell ’16
Jessi, who spent a semester studying at the University of Sydney in Australia and was a teaching assistant in a Stonehill organic chemistry laboratory, was a part of the lab team for two years. She has worked with the team that developed our gene expression assays and is planning to become a PHYSICIAN’S ASSISTANT.
James Cheney ’17
Jim has been a SURE scholar in the past and will be again this summer. His project investigates how individuals integrate information from different social partners. He has worked in the lab for a year and a half and plans to work throughout his senior year to complete a thesis. Jim spent this past semester studying abroad in Ireland and plans to work in BIOLOGY RESEARCH after graduation.
Meghan Maciejewski ’18
Meghan has been assisting in a project linking social learning and the sensory anatomy of guppies. She will be completing individual research on how fish from different river systems respond to their social partners. She is interested in MARINE SCIENCE AND ANIMAL BEHAVIOR.
Brian Campbell ’16
Brian, who managed to balance a successful academic career with one on the baseball diamond as a member of Stonehill’s baseball team, was among the student researchers who helped develop our gene expression assays. Brian worked in the lab for three semesters and plans to become a PHYSICAL THERAPIST.
Sesen Aron ’18
Sesen has been part of a project linking social learning and the sensory anatomy of guppies. She will be joining Bleakley’s lab to explore how gene expression changes in response to the social environment. She plans to pursue a career in EMERGENCY MEDICINE. Sesen has been working in the lab for a semester.
Dieter Kuhlka ’16
Dieter contributed to the project developing gene expression assays, helped measure gene expression differences between two strains of guppies, and to measure gene expression differences that result from changes in the social environment. He has worked in the lab for four semesters and a summer and is applying to graduate programs to pursue a master’s degree in DENTAL HYGIENE.
Meggie Wambui ’18
Meggie assisted in a project to investigate the effects of an herbicide on the reproductive behavior of burying beetles and the project linking social learning and the sensory anatomy of guppies. She has worked in the lab since last summer and plans to be a MEDICAL SOCIAL WORKER.
Alison Smith ’17
Alison has participated in every project in the lab and will be the lead undergraduate researcher this summer as a SURE scholar. She will be completing her thesis research by describing the gene expression and hormone changes that occur as fish become familiar with their social partners. She is has studied in Spain where she completed a research internship at the Centro Andaluz de Biología del Desarrollo. She plans to pursue a PHD IN BIOLOGY.
Katherine Morelli ’16
Katherine was a SURE fellow in 2014 and presented a talk at the Evolution Meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her research investigated how exposure to a common herbicide changed burying beetle behavior and she helped develop methods to measure hormone changes in the beetles exposed to the herbicide and contributed to a project measuring hormone differences between different strains of guppies. She is now a residential coordinator and FIELD TEACHING ASSISTANT at Huyck Biological Preserve and Research Station.
Corey Mair ’16
Corey’s thesis work demonstrated that two inbred strains of guppies differ in their gene expression when they are exposed to a model predator. She was instrumental in developing the techniques to measure gene expression in the lab and presented these methods at the 2014 Evolution Meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina. She was a Balfour Fellow in 2014 and a SURE Fellow in 2015, working in the lab a total of three years. She plans to pursue a career in MEDICINE.
W. Jackson Reilly ’16
Jackson helped to develop methods to measure gene expression in guppies. His thesis work describes how gene expression in guppies changes when their social environment changes and presented at the 2014 Evolution Meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was a SURE fellow in 2014 and 2015 and worked for 3 years in the lab. He will be working in Rhode Island with Teach for America for the next two years and plans to become a DOCTOR after that.
Alex Tavares ’14
Alex worked for three years as an undergraduate and is currently the full-time lab manager of the Bleakley Lab, under an NSF CAREER grant. Unofficially known as the lab “fish whisperer,” he developed the methods to observe the lateral line anatomy of the fish. His thesis demonstrated that variation in the lateral line organ of guppies influences their cooperative antipredator behavior. He presented his results at the 2014 Evolution Meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina, and plans to pursue a PHD IN BIOLOGY.
Azariah Boyd ’18
Azariah assisted a project to investigate the effects of an herbicide on the reproductive behavior of burying beetles and the project linking social learning and the sensory anatomy of the guppies. She is currently developing an independent project and has been with the lab for a year. She plans to pursue a career in BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH.
Brendan Hughes ’16
St. Johnsbury, Vermont
Brendan began in the lab in his first semester, assisting a project investigating changes in social networks of guppies exposed to a fungicide commonly found in runoff. He then worked to determine whether lateral line anatomy can change based on the presence of predators in the environment. Brendan, who also provided care for the fish used in the lab, is planning to become a DENTIST and exploring an interest in DEVELOPING BIOTECHNOLOGY. This coming year he will be pursuing his master’s degree in entrepreneurship at the University of Notre Dame.
Taylor Christiansen ’17
Nashua, New Hampshire
Taylor has contributed to a project describing the hormonal differences between two inbred strains of guppies. She has worked in the lab for the last year and a half and recently returned from studying abroad in Quito and the Galapagos Islands. She returns to as a SURE fellow this summer and will help measure hormonal changes in wild fish whose social environment changes.
John Figueiredo ’16
John completed research describing changes in burying beetle search behavior. He spent a year in the lab as a Balfour Fellow and independent research student. He is planning to pursue a career that includes ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE and BIOTECHNOLOGY.
Corina Mier y Teran ’16
Corina has spent the last three years contributing to a variety of projects in the lab that investigated the behavior of guppies. She is currently completing a senior thesis investigating whether the lateral line coordinates cooperative learning in the same way it influences cooperative antipredator behavior. She is currently conducting an internship with the Red Siskin Initiative and plans to pursue graduate work in BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY.
Colin McNamara ’16
Colin has contributed to projects measuring gene expression and hormone differences between two strains of guppies, as well as describing how gene expression changes when social environment is altered. For the next year he will be working as an emergency room technician at Yale New Haven Hospital and then plans to attend PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT school.
Amy Hanlon ’16
Chester, New Hampshire
Amy worked for two and half years in the lab. Her thesis demonstrates that two inbred strains of guppies differ in the hormones they excrete, creating different chemical environments for their social partners. She helped bring the methods to extract hormones from water samples into the lab. Amy begins VETERINARY SCHOOL in the fall.
Giorgio Sarkis ’16
Giorgio began his time in the lab assisting another student in measuring changes in burying beetle parental care caused by exposure to a common herbicide. He followed that research up by exploring whether the herbicide causes developmental changes in a model beetle species for his senior thesis. He worked in the lab for two years and is planning to pursue a career that combines HUMAN AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH.
Nick Berman ’15
Nick was a SURE scholar in 2014 who led a project investigating changes in burying beetle search behavior resulting from exposure to a common herbicide and contributed to Bleakley’s goal of better characterizing the diversity of burying beetles on the Stonehill campus.
Serge Jean-Baptiste ’16
Serge has worked two and half years in the lab, including the summer of 2015 when he also worked for the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection. Serge contributed to projects investigating the effects of a common herbicide on the behavior and development of burying beetles. He has independently created a map of pesticide use on Stonehill’s campus, which will serve as the basis for additional research on the impacts of common pesticides on ground beetles. Serge is applying to law school and plans to practice ENVIRONMENTAL LAW.