Modus Operandi with Jared Acosta-King

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

Jared Acosta-King is a senior psychology major conducting research in the Smear Lab. Jared’s research investigates the neurological mechanisms by which mice use olfaction to navigate their environments..

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

Who has been your mentor (faculty, post-doc, graduate student) and how have they been helpful during your research experience?

I have had several mentors, but the most impactful has been Associate Professor Matt Smear, who is psychology faculty at UO. He offered me a position working in his lab at the institute of neuroscience and has helped to facilitate my learning with supplemental information. In addition, he has helped me with many other aspects of life, including finding a place to live when I first moved to Eugene, OR.

What has been one of the highlights of your research experience so far?

The greatest highlight of my research experience has been working with others with more experience, teaching me to perform new surgeries and to think outside of my normal perspective.

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

I do not use much technology outside of Google calendar, but I do have a paper agenda for the year, and continually record my daily activities and due dates for projects and assignments about a week in advance.

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

Mostly, I use tools that allow for controlled odor delivery systems so that I can present various odors to subjects and record their behaviors. There is a lot of measuring involved. I also use Matlab and Arduino to run the machines that deliver the odors.

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

I took Matt’s Biopsychology class during my first term at UO, and when I found out about the work he did in his lab I realized that what he did was what I wanted to be doing. I inquired for a position in his lab and joined by the next term.

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

Although I am a psychology major, my lab work is very neuroscience based. I am very lucky to do what I love, so if I had to pick a different field, it would be biology, so that I could still continue to do the same work that I do.

What is your favorite place on campus?

If I had to pick a favorite place, it would be the lab that I work in, but in reality I enjoy all the labs across Willamette, Streisinger, Huestis, and LISB, because there is a lot of collaboration among many brilliant minds. I enjoy running from lab to lab and discussing ideas with all the other amazing people doing research at UO.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading “Neuro Tribes: The legacy of autism and the future of neurodiversity” by Steve Silberman, and “Why zebras don’t get ulcers” by Robert Sapolsky.

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

I like to listen to a wide variety of music, but mostly classic rock. I like to listen to music that pumps me up and gets me excited to learn. I also enjoy old school hiphop, as I feel it promotes creativity.

How do you stay inspired and energized?

Honestly, I just look at my past. I have had a hard upbringing and when I look back to the place from which I came, I remember how blessed I am to be where I am today. I have worked so hard to be where I am today, and when I begin to lose the drive, I recall what things used to be like, and remember how important it is to keep working. I also am given the opportunity to help provide research toward the betterment of mankind as a whole, and that that is a powerful motivator.

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

I want to go the route of professorship I think. I would like to continue research, and perhaps have my own lab someday. I really enjoy working with people, sharing ideas, and growing as a collective as well as individually.

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

I have learned much that a classroom simply can’t teach. I have learned about troubleshooting, problem solving, construction, programming, and using virtually all of my skills in unison toward inventing new solutions.

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

The best advice I can give would be to be open to everything, because you never know what will catch your interest. Also, do research about who works in research and what their interests are. Once you have found a few professors that you think you would like to know more about, find and read some of their published work… Then contact them, expressing interest in what they do. Ask them to tell you about themselves, and express how your talents may be beneficial to their work.