Foundation research

SIS alumnus receives National Science Foundation research grant | Way of life

(SIS) — Anika Snyder, valedictorian of the SIS class of 2020, received an undergraduate research experience or REU grant to work in the Re-IMAGINE Life REU program at the University of Alabama.

Anika Snyder

REUs are competitive summer research programs for undergraduate science, engineering, or math students and are sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Anika was selected from 99 applications for the Re-IMAGINE REU to work with Dr. Mathew Jenny at the University of Alabama from May through July.

The main objective of this REU is Re-IMAGINE Life, Exploring Function through Adaptation. This subject encompasses a wide variety of sub-disciplines within biology and creates opportunities for hands-on laboratory and/or field research by undergraduate students to explore the interplay of genomes, phenotypes, and environments at all levels of biological organization.

Dr. Jenny’s specific project focuses on the molecular mechanisms of tolerance and adaptation to environmental pollutants.

Due to climate change, aquatic organisms are regularly exposed to warmer temperatures, which leads to significant cellular stress.

Freshwater unionid mussels are one of the most threatened groups of aquatic organisms and a better understanding of how mussel species respond and adapt to environmental change will greatly improve conservation and restoration efforts.

To compare the different responses to heat stress among unionid species with different life history strategies, Anika will participate in mesocosm studies this summer in which up to four different unionid species will be exposed to a gradient of challenges thermals over the course of six weeks.

During this time, metabolic and physiological measurements will be performed on the mussels.

At the end of the six-week heat challenge, she will have the opportunity to participate in the collection and analysis of several cellular and molecular biomarkers, including those for energy storage, changes in aerobic respiration versus to anaerobic respiration, assessment of cellular antioxidants and changes in gene expression.

Anika is a rising junior at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland where she studies ecology and conservation.

At SIS, she was a recipient of the AP Capstone degree. His AP research topic, “The thermotolerant advantage of heat acclimation in Nerita plicata,” examined the impact of rising sea temperatures on intertidal snails in the CNMI.

His report received the College Board’s highest rating that year.

“Anika asked great questions from the beginning of the course and continued to answer them with vigor,” commented Mr. Whit Altizer, AP Research Professor of SIS. “I’m so proud to see her build on the work she did at AP Research when she was at SIS. We ask students to pursue a topic that really interests them in the hope that they will continue their research after they leave here. I’m incredibly happy that she found a topic in our program that she continues to question.