Modus Operandi with Natalie Mosqueda

Modus Operandi is a regular series that peers into the methods and personalities of UO  undergraduate scholars. 

Natalie Mosqueda is a senior biology major conducting research in the Postlethwait lab.   Natalie’s research investigates the effects of elevated water temperature, mimicking climate change, and how that can alter the embryonic skeletal development of the Antarctic fish species, Notothenia coriiceps, Bullhead Notothen.

UROP caught up with Natalie to learn more about her modus operandi.

Who has been your mentor and how have they been helpful during your research experience?

In the Postlethwait lab my mentor is Thomas Desvignes, a post-doc in the Institute of Neuroscience. He has been extremely helpful in transitioning me into working in a research lab and shaping me into becoming a researcher by teaching me a variety of lab skills.

Students are busy; how do you manage your time and productivity? Do you use any apps or technology to help?

I am really bad with keeping up with apps, so technology has not been a way for me to manage my time. So what I do is every year I buy planner with the hopes of keeping myself organized, but I find myself never keeping up with it after week 1 of the term. Instead what I do now is before a week starts I usually go through each class I am taking and look at the due dates for assignments and dates for upcoming tests. I then open every document and/or PDF necessary and have them placed on multiple desktops on my computer, organized by class or research, and always have a desktop open to cute animal videos.

What are the primary tools, equipment, and/or resources that you use in conducting research? What do they do?

I used a dissecting microscope to be able to look at my fish embryos up close and have the capability of moving them around so I could see all of their skeletal features. I then use a picturing microscope to be able to document the stages of development in the experiment and control embryos. Also I used a staining technique, ABAR staining, that stain cartilage blue and bones red. This allows me to see the embryo’s skeletal features.

Students get involved in research through a variety of ways. How did you get your start? 

I had quite an interesting start with getting involved in research. I applied for the Summer Program for Undergraduate Research (SPUR) here at the UO and was informed to contact Dr. John Postlethwait because he was interested in bringing a SPUR student with him and fellow lab members to Antarctica for the summer. When I first got that email, I thought to myself, “Wow is this real?”. So I immediately got into contact with John and that’s how I got my start. I was here at the UO participating the the SPUR program and events as well as working in the lab for a couple of weeks before leaving for Antarctica for about 2 months. Ever since summer, I have been very fortunate enough to continue working in the lab with some amazing people.

If you could do research in a different field, what would it be? Why?

I would definitely want to conduct research in chemistry. While I was taking organic chemistry, although I struggled with the material at the beginning, by the second term, I grew to really admire organic chemistry mechanisms. I enjoyed learning a mechanism, being able to think through it and get to the end product without having to “memorize” the steps. I would take time and think about how different reagents could be used to move something around in the structure that would eventually lead to the desired product.

What is your favorite place on campus?

Very top floor in Willamette, there are tables along the window side of the building where you can usually find me. I like to sit up there because there is a nice view and it is usually quiet up there.

What are you currently reading?

I am reading the book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat, Harper and Row (1985).  I also read primary research papers for my classes and research, which adds up to about four papers a week.

Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what genre(s) and why?

My taste in music is very variable. Sometimes I will listen to Star Wars music while I am reading, or listen to Motown while doing an assignment, it changes a lot. But some of my favorite artists currently are SZA, Kendrick Lamar, Phish, and Pink Floyd. (my music taste is all across the board)

How do you stay inspired and energized?

Even though I am constantly busy with school work or research, one way I keep myself inspired to continue through is to remind myself of how fortunate I am to be able to pursue my passion of science, because at the end of the day I truly love science and geek out over it. To remain energized I go to the rec or go on walks to make sure I don’t stay cooped up inside.

Have you thought about what you want to do after graduation?

Yes, I am currently looking at post-baccalaureate programs, to gain more research experience before applying to graduate school.

What would you say is the greatest benefit of conducting research as an undergrad?

One of the benefits I have gained while conducting research as an undergrad is that I am able to apply concepts I have learned in my classes to carry out experiments in my research. One example in particular is that in my Molecular Genetics class, we learned about PCR  and some research I have done requires PCR analysis for looking at mutant genes. I find this aspect of research to be exciting because I am able to apply what I have learned into a research environment to be able to learn more.

What advice would you give a first-year student that wanted to get involved in research? How can they best prepare?

I would advise a first-year student to not be afraid of asking questions to your professors about how to get involved in research. Freshmen year I was extremely shy and kind of scared to ask questions about research to my professors, but once I started talking to them, I began to find it easier to learn more about research labs on campus and how to try to get involved in one. One way I would recommend to prepare for getting involved in research is to first find a topic or scientific area you are curious in and would want to know more about. From there you can have conversations with teachers, advisors, or even the PI themselves about the research and the opportunity to be able to conduct research as an undergraduate student.