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Olivia Watkins

Region: NYC: Bronx/Manhattan
Program Institution:
Barnard College


College/University: Barnard College
Major/Minor: B.S. Environmental Biology

Work History

Employer: Brookhaven National Labs (BNL)

Significant Professional or Academic Accomplishments: Her first exposure to science research was in the Science & Technology Entry Program (STEP) at New York Medical College, where she spent four years Saturday mornings with medical and PhD graduate students. During the summer of 2010, Olivia worked in a laboratory in the Environmental Health Science Department at New York Medical College assisting Dr. Hong-Duck Kim with research on the development of counter agents for sulfur mustard toxicity and a vaccine for Alzheimer's disease. She enjoyed the hands-on experience and problem solving. When STEP started a new science research program in order to prepare high school students to pursue a PhD, she applied, and was accepted as an intern in the Cell Biology & Anatomy Department under the supervision of Dr. Frances Hannan. This internship began in March of 2011, one day a week after school and during the summer and continued until the end of her senior year.

The scientists in the Cell Biology & Anatomy laboratory were working with human neurofibromatosis-1 mutant fruit flies. Olivia designed an experiment to examine larvae behavior and their reaction to different odors and tastes. She implemented previous adverse training methods that have been used but have proven to be unsuccessful and then devised a successful and conclusive way to carry out the adverse training on the fruit fly larvae. After developing a successful adverse training method, she worked to design a successful positive training method, which attracted the larvae to tastes that they did not particularly like, which were associated with pleasurable smells. Over the course of the year that Olivia did this research she presented her work in several science competitions and received recognition for her work.

Olivia has continued to do research in high school in a laboratory in Barnard College's Biology Department under the direction of Dr. Krista McGuire. The focus of Dr. McGuire's lab is how microbial communities react and influence tropical forests and their ecosystems. Olivia's research focus includes studying plant-fungal feedbacks in Puerto Rican rain forests and Dipterocarp-ECM symbioses in Malaysian rain forests. Olivia has been working in Dr. McGuire's lab for a year now and is looking to further her knowledge of microbiology in order to eventually conduct her own research designs.

Olivia's intended major is Environmental Biology. After graduation, Olivia plans to progress her career by continuing her education in graduate school to obtain a PhD or Masters in a natural science. She has taken interest to the business aspects of science and hopes to work within the science industry as a consultant or CEO.


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