College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

Undergrad Laura Lagomarsino maps ancestral relationships using genetics

November 18, 2006

Laura LagomarsinoLagomarsino, third year in Plant Biology, is using nuclear and chloroplast genes to develop a phylogeny, or map of ancestral relationships between species of the genus Heliconia, a tropical plant. Her mentor, Assistant Professor Chelsea Specht in the department of Plant and Microbial Biology, uses molecular and evolutionary biology to understand lineages of related plants.

SPUR funding has allowed Specht to provide Lagomarsino with necessary laboratory materials to expand her research.

The SPUR program offers students a unique opportunity to develop as scientists with a level of independence that has often been reserved for graduate students. Not only does this help make Berkeley students more competitive, it develops of the kind of creative thinking skills so essential to the success of any scientist. “You learn all the techniques” says Lagomarsino, “But then you are also given a certain amount of freedom, and your thoughts are valued.”

For Lagomarsino, research in plant and molecular biology has also given her academic career a clear direction. “Now, I know exactly what I want to do and what I want to study.”

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