Undergraduate ecology and evolutionary biology major Jami Clayton is one of seven recipients of the 2020 Undergraduate Research in Science and Technology Award. For student achievement week, we asked her about her time at UC Santa Cruz, her research, and her advice for incoming students.
Please tell us about your experience at UC Santa Cruz.
I transferred to UC Santa Cruz in Fall of 2019, which, as it turns out, couldn’t have been a more inopportune time. I only got a few months on campus before the pandemic hit and classes became fully remote. Despite this pretty major setback and missing out on enjoying our beautiful campus, I was able to take advantage of the abundant opportunities UC Santa Cruz has to offer its undergrads. While remote classes have been a challenge for me and many others, getting real research experience has made my time at UCSC exceptionally valuable.
What are your research interests and goals?
I have so many interests that choosing a direction to go in has been difficult. However, throughout my classes at UCSC, there was always one topic that piqued my interest: how do marine populations and communities respond to their environment? I want to use field-based research to answer this question and place emphasis on community-driven environmental justice throughout my career in academia. I plan to take a year or two off before going to grad school. I want to get my master’s in marine biology/science and am considering a Ph.D.
In Fall of 2019 I was part of WEST (Workshops for Engineering and Science Transfers), and then later that quarter is when I joined the Coral Resilience Lab and began working under Ph.D. student Stephan Bitterwolf. I am currently helping Stephan with his dissertation, and in December 2019 we received the Future Leaders in Coastal Science Award to help fund Stephan’s research.
In December of 2020 I was awarded the URST Grant (Undergraduate Research in Science and Technology Award) to fund my senior thesis: Characterizing microbial shifts in three colonies of Montipora capitata in laboratory and in situ (on site) environments.
Recently, I received the STARS Re-entry Scholarship to fund more of my research, and was accepted into the UCSC GEOPATHS Summer Internship Program where I’ll be working with postdoctoral fellow Joe Bizzarro at NOAA researching the ecology of the starry skate.
What advice do you have for incoming UC Santa Cruz students?
Take advantage of all the incredible opportunities UCSC has to offer its undergrads. Classes are important, but if you want to go to grad school, experience is what will set you apart from other candidates and really make you competitive. If you want to join a lab, send them an email and be sure to include your experience or interests, some things about you, etc. You don’t need any research experience to join a lab! No one is expecting you to be an expert in anything as an undergrad. Finally, have fun, make friends, and appreciate post-Covid life!
Congratulations to Jami and all of our 2020-2021 award winners! For more student stories, check out the “Student Experience” category on the science.ucsc.edu newscenter.