Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Ann Gisinger

gisingerName: Ann Gisinger

Occupation: Operations & Events Coordinator

Education (UR and additional): B.S. Evolutionary Biology and Ecology, M.S. Conservation Biology

Current city/state/country of residence: Boston, MA

Location of your study abroad experience: Melbourne, Australia

Duration of your study abroad experience: Semester

Community activities: Currently: board member of Tufts Environmental Alumni, board member of the Massachusetts Environmental Education Society, volunteer at Crane Beach in Ipswich, MA

When and why did you choose to study abroad? What factors (your major, other commitments, Take Five) did you weigh as you were making the decision to study abroad?

I had always known I would study abroad. Growing up, my family lived in Germany for several years and traveled extensively. I have always been comfortable with travel and knew that a study abroad experience would be essential to my college career. As a Biology major I needed an English-speaking country and the University of Melbourne offered courses I could use toward my UR degree. Plus, Australia is the coolest!

Beyond the academic work, how did you engage with your new “community” and culture while you were away from Rochester?

It was easy! The orientation process is a key part of the study abroad experience and our leaders were simply amazing. There were activities for a week prior to school starting and then continuing activities with the group throughout the semester. Additionally, living in a college “dorm” in Melbourne allowed me to connect with other students easily. Studying abroad puts you in a situation where you have to reach beyond your comfort zone and simply start fresh – it’s a little scary but very liberating, no matter where you go.

What was returning to campus like for you?

I was really excited to be back with all of my UR friends. I had missed them during my semester away and then I spent the summer away from campus so I hadn’t been back in eight months. Returning in the fall was a happy experience and catching up was great. There were things I missed, like helping out with ADITI’s Mela performance, but I woudn’t trade my Australian experience for the world.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

As a Take Five Scholar I got a chance to extend my UR time a bit. I studied an extra semester and graduated in December, after which I decided to stay in Rochester and work at Lollypop Farm until I started my graduate program in Boston. I was happy living off campus with friends during my Take Five Semester and wanted to have a little more time in Rochester before moving on to Boston.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

I’m essentially a non-profit manager at a small environmentally-focused organization. I coordinate education programs, process payroll, manage the accounting, act as the HR contact, and make sure operations run smoothly. I always enjoyed the natural sciences but it turns out that practicing science doesn’t quite excite me like accounting and operations does! So even though I have an advanced science degree, I’ve found I truly enjoy the challenge of coordinating events and making sure my organization runs smoothly.

What skills, tools, or knowledge gained from studying abroad do you draw on since graduation?

At work I am constantly interacting with people. Many of the events I coordinate are networking events and I’ve had to simply dive in to conversations with folks and get to know a lot of people. Studying abroad pushes you to “break the silence” and get to know strangers, make them your new friends! It was an experience that helped me learn how to approach networking, getting to know people, and making connections.

Where would you like to be in five years?

In five years I hope to be “rising in the ranks” and taking on a managerial role in a non-profit organization. I’d like to move on to an organization that focuses specifically on conserving our shared natural world. And of course, I’d like to continue to travel and cross countries off my list!

What advice do you have for current students contemplating studying abroad?

Studying abroad is an amazing experience. No matter where you go or what you do, it will be eye-opening, challenging, exciting, scary, and wonderful. Find a way to make it work and go! You’ll never regret the choice to study abroad.

Lizard Lab Shows Evolutionary Biology In Action

By Blake Silberberg ’13
Univ. Communications

The Glor Lab at the University of Rochester is an evolutionary biology lab that specializes in studying the evolutionary patterns of lizards. Rochester junior Dan MacGuigan has been working with the Glor Lab to study speciation, or how new species come into existence.

MacGuigan first became interested in biology in high school, and chose to attend the University of Rochester to pursue a degree in biology with a concentration in ecology and evolutionary biology. “I’ve always had an inherent curiosity about our natural world,” says MacGuigan, “so it only made sense for me to pursue a career in biology.”

MacGuigan was interested in hands-on research as a freshman, and after emailing Rich Glor, principal investigator of the Glor Lab, became an undergraduate research assistant in spring 2012.The Glor Lab asks on two main research questions: What factors underlie major diversity patterns and what processes contribute to the formation of new species? It houses a large number of lizards, which researchers use to perform hybridization (or cross-breeding) experiments. “It’s a perfect fit for me, since it combines lab work with field work,” says MacGuigan.

MacGuigan’s current project focuses on examining the influences of social dominance hierarchies on phenotypic plasticity of a secondary sexual characteristic. “In plain English, IMG_0019we want to see if the size of male dewlap, the colorful little flap of skin that hangs below the lower jaw in many species of lizard, changes in response to interaction with other males,” explains MacGuigan. “Dewlaps are used for a variety of displaying purposes, including male-to-male agonistic behaviors. We hypothesize that male dewlap size can change in response to different social contexts, and that males with larger dewlaps are more dominant. Thus, dewlap size might serve as an indicator of overall male fitness.”

MacGuigan has worked largely on his own on this particular project, with the guidance of fellow lab members Julienne Ng, a doctoral candidate, and Glor, who also is an associate professor of biology. MacGuigan developed most of the experimental design, created the cage set-ups, and assigned male lizards to particular cages to create different social groups. MacGuigan also was responsible for collecting a large amount of data from the experiment, recording perch-location data twice daily along with various morphological measurements (such as dewlap and body size) taken monthly. MacGuigan analyzed this data and is currently completing a write-up he hopes to submit for publication.

Although the research is scientifically complex and serious, scientists in the Glor Lab are not without a sense of humor. During his first experience working with the lizards, MacGuigan was helping a doctoral student photograph the lizards’ extended dewlaps. “My job was to hold the animals so they didn’t scamper off during the proceedings. However, I was told that my bare fingernails would cause too much reflectance in the photos,” he recalls. “Me, being the innocent lab newbie that I was, took this all on faith and, for the good of science, was forced to paint my nails a rather obnoxious shade of green. It was only hours later that I was rudely informed I had just been pranked. I believe pictures of my lovely painted nails still exist somewhere on our lab’s blog.”


Despite the humorous nature of the lab, MacGuigan describes working on the project as a serious time commitment, especially for an undergraduate student also managing a full course load. “Even though what I’m doing is fairly simple science, I’ve learned just how many frustrating complexities and complications there are to running an experiment,” says MacGuigan, who is quick to acknowledge that his efforts have been enormously beneficial. “Having such a degree of control over what has essentially been my own project was definitely worth the effort I’ve put in, and I love the idea that I’m in some small way an actively contributing member of the scientific community,” he explains. “I can’t overstate this: being involved with undergraduate research of any kind is the best thing you can do to further your development as a student and as a scientist.”


For MacGuigan, simply being around research professionals was enormously rewarding. “Even after a year of working in the Glor Lab, I’m still pretty frequently dumbfounded by the combined encyclopedic knowledge that my PI and graduate students have concerning so many aspects of biology, ranging from nomenclature of reptiles to the most recent phylogenetic methods. Combine that with reading current scientific literature on a weekly basis for lab meetings and research projects, and you’ve got one hell of a crash course in the basics of being a scientist.”



Nine Rochester Students Awarded Fellowships for Graduate Research

Univ. Communications – Nine University of Rochester students and six alumni have been named recipients of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. Additionally, 18 current students and recent alumni also were given honorable mentions by the NSF. The fellowship, which is part of a federally sponsored program, provides up to three years of graduate study support for students pursing doctoral or research-based master’s degrees. Since the program’s inception in 1952, it has supported nearly 50,000 students conducting research in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and selected social science disciplines. Of the more than 12,000 applicants, only 2,000 were awarded fellowships and 1,783 were given honorable mentions. The fellowship includes a three-year annual stipend of $30,000, a $10,500 educational allowance to the institution, and international research and professional development opportunities.

The following graduating seniors received fellowships:

  • Emilia Sola-Gracia ’12, bachelor of science in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • David Kaphan ’12, bachelor of science in chemistry
  • Sharese King ’12, bachelor of arts in linguistics, minor in American Sign Language
  • Mark D. Levin ’12, bachelor of science in chemistry, minor in mathematics
  • Susan Pratt ’12, bachelor of arts in mathematics and bachelor of science in physics

The following graduating seniors received honorable mentions:

  • Chad Hunter ’12, bachelor of science in chemical engineering, minor in mathematics
  • Matej Penciak ’12, bachelor of science in physics and bachelor of arts in mathematics
  • Benjamin E.R. Snyder ’12, bachelor of science in chemistry and bachelor of arts in mathematics

The following graduate students received fellowships:

  • Michael Baranello, doctoral degree candidate in chemical engineering
  • Ellie Carrell, doctoral degree candidate in pharmacology and physiology
  • Jason Inzana, doctoral degree candidate in biomedical engineering
  • Vijay Jain, doctoral degree candidate in physics

The following graduate students received honorable mentions:

  • Esteban Buz, doctoral degree candidate in brain and cognitive sciences
  • Dev Crasta, doctoral degree candidate in clinical and social sciences in psychology
  • Adam B. Johnson, doctoral degree candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Patrick S. Murphy, doctoral degree candidate in microbiology & immunology
  • Ian Perera, doctoral degree candidate in computer science

The following recent alumni, who are currently pursing advanced degrees elsewhere, received fellowships:

  • Molly Boutin ’11, bachelor of science in biomedical engineering
  • Caitlin Hilliard ’10, bachelor of arts in brain and cognitive sciences and American Sign Language
  • Patrick Sheehan ’11, bachelor of science in physics & astronomy and bachelor of arts in mathematics
  • Raisa Trubko ’10, bachelor of arts in physics and bachelor of science in optics
  • David J. Weinberg ’11, bachelor of science in chemistry
  • Hannah (Geswein) Williamson ’08, bachelor of arts in psychology

The following recent alumni, many of whom are currently pursing advanced degrees elsewhere, received honorable mentions:

  • Samuel Anderson ’11, bachelor of science in chemistry
  • Isthier Chaudhury ’11, bachelor of science in chemical engineering and bachelor of arts in interdepartmental programs
  • Emily (Grzybowski) Dennis ’11, bachelor of science in molecular genetics and bachelor of arts in studio arts
  • Aaron Gorenstein ’11, bachelor of science in computer science
  • Seth Kallman ’09, bachelor of science in brain & cognitive sciences
  • Kathleen Mulvaney ’10, bachelor of science in molecular genetics
  • Alison Ossip-Klein ’10, bachelor of science in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Camillia Redding ’10, bachelor of arts in political science
  • Maria Strangas ’10, bachelor of science in ecology & evolutionary biology
  • Adam Williamson’08, bachelor of science in electrical & computer engineering and bachelor of arts in physics

Article written by Melissa Greco Lopes, editor of The Buzz and student life publicist in University Communications. Photo courtesy of  the NSF website.

Carlson and Rush Rhees Libraries Announce 2011 Art Purchase Prizes

Rush Rhees Library – The Carlson Science and Engineering Library’s Undergraduate Student Art Prize was awarded to Sam Sadtler ’11, a Take Five student majoring in mechanical engineering. Sadtler’s work of inkjet prints, “In the Dark,” is on permanent exhibition in the Carlson Library (see prints to the right).

The Rush Rhees Library’s Undergraduate Student Art Prize was awarded to Ryane Logsdon ’12, an ecology and evolutionary biology major. Logsdon’s work of inkjet prints, titled “It would have gone unnoticed,” is on permanent exhibition in the Rush Rhees Library (see prints below).

Both the Carlson Library and Rush Rhees Library Art Prizes, which have been given annually since 2004, are selected by River Campus Library staff members during the Undergraduate Juried Art Exhibition at Hartnett Gallery.

Students, Alumnus Awarded Fellowships to Study Abroad

Univ. Communications – At the University of Rochester, April and May mean more than the beginning of spring. It’s also national fellowship selection season, and again this year, some of Rochester’s brightest are learning that they’ve been selected as for prestigious awards. As of today, with more announcements likely in the weeks ahead, two Rochester seniors, Nathaniel Lindsey and Hannah Watkins, and one alumnus, David Liebers, have been named 2011-12 Fulbright Scholars. This highly selective program provides college graduates the opportunity to study, teach, and conduct research abroad.

David Liebers also was recently selected to receive the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the scholarship provides one to three years of graduate study at the University of Cambridge, England. Liebers is one of the 30 U.S. students, and is the first University of Rochester student or alumnus to receive this award since the program began in 2001.  After careful consideration, Liebers has accepted the Gates Cambridge Scholarship and will pursue a master’s degree in history and philosophy of science.

Read more about the Lindsey and Watkins here. Read more about Liebers here.

Nathaniel Lindsey

Hannah Watkins

David Liebers (Photo Credit: Joey Kolker)