Jieong (Jess) Choi began exploring undergraduate research opportunities her freshman year while enrolled in the Conservation Biology Learning Community. During her time in the learning community taught by Dr. Robert Boyd, Jess learned about research opportunities available to her from faculty members who visited the class.
Jess is now a senior studying microbiology (pre-vet) and minoring in plant pathology. She is conducting her Undergraduate Research Fellowship under the direction of Dr. Boyd in the biological sciences department. Her research involves studying a nickel hyperaccumulating plant Streptanthus polygaloides and a high-nickel insect called Melanotrichus boydi that eats the plant.
“What I’m really interested in is different populations of plants, geographic patterns, and morphological patterns that cause the plants to take and store different concentrations of nickel,” Jess said. “I am then interested in the bugs that are found feeding on the plants and if they can also store different nickel concentrations.”
During the summer of 2015, Jess traveled to the Sierra Nevada mountains in California to collect plant and insect samples from 25 sites. According to Jess, her biggest challenge so far during her project was collecting plant samples that were flowering. When Jess returned to Auburn, she then analyzed the nickel concentration of her samples using inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES).
After her freshman-year experience, Jess Jess using the ICP-OES machine to analyze her plant samples.returned her sophomore year to be the peer instructor for the Conservation Biology Learning Community. Jess said she had this advice for freshman looking to get involved in research, “If you’re a freshman go ahead and contact professors. If you’re in the sciences check out their lab websites and see what they are researching. Don’t think that all the professors expect you to know stuff. Be confident and talk to your professors. They all like to talk about their research.”
Photos: Jess using the ICP-OES machine to analyze her plant samples.