In March, the Office of Undergraduate Research held its first ever Undergraduate Research Pitch Competition. Ana Pascual-Garrigos, a biochemistry senior presented her research, ”Low-Cost, User-Friendly Biosensor for Bovine Respiratory Disease Diagnostics” and tied in third place. Ana worked closely with Dr. Mohit Verma, the PI leading the research lab on biosensors, as well as Suraj Mohan, a graduate student on the project.
“I really enjoyed my experience participating in the Pitch Competition. I learned a lot and I think it’s a great way of sharing your research with the public,” she said.
In response to the global pandemic and the campus shut-down, Ana’s research switched to focusing on creating tests for COVID-19. She said that “this work is important because it will allow the public to detect viruses without having to spend a lot of money or needing to take samples to a lab.” She also said that it has been a great challenge switching “between Bovine Respiratory Disease and the COVID-19 work since we are now working at a much faster pace.” The science in both the tests are the same, but working with viruses compared to bacteria make the work quite different. Working with this virus requires them to be more careful and use stricter safety measures due to its high contagiousness.
Ana first got involved in research by emailing Biochemistry professors and meeting with them to determine the best lab for her. She started research with biosensors in May 2019 as part of the Molecular Agriculture Summer Institute (MASI) Research Fellowship program which allows undergraduate students to experience in-depth and hands-on research each summer. This past year, Ana has continued in the lab with her research on biosensors following her involvement with the MASI program.
For other students looking to enter undergraduate research Ana recommends emailing professors and meeting with them before choosing a lab. She says that “it is important that they will serve as mentors together with graduate students.”
Congratulations to Ana for participating in the 2020 Pitch Competition. The OUR wishes her and her research group well as the research project continues!