Kali Prescott, CSU Monterey Bay

Kali Prescott kneeling and testing agriculture in a field

Kali recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology, where her studies were focused in ecology, evolutionary and organismal biology. Kali is quite interested in extremophiles, defined as organisms that live in environments where few other organisms can survive. Kali was accepted into the graduate program in cellular and molecular microbiology at the University of Illinois where she will continue to pursue her interest in extremophile biology.

As an undergraduate student, Kali was selected to participate in the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC) Scholars Program at Monterey Bay. The program provides students with intensive research experiences and helps prepare them for graduate school. The UROC scholar program matches students with professors to help the student get research experience and to participate in activities designed to increase their competitiveness for graduate school. Shortly after becoming a UROC Scholar, Kali enrolled in a course with Dr. Arlene Haffa, an assistant professor in the School of Natural Sciences at CSU Monterey Bay. Under Dr. Haffa, Kali was given the freedom to develop her ARI-funded project to include her interests and to participate in designing the experiments. As part of her project, Kali measured concentrations of greenhouse gases from pore water collected across the soil horizon, including from soils and ecosystems potentially affected by agricultural runoff.

One of the most rewarding experiences for Kali was learning that you don’t have to have a research background or certain lab skills to start a project. In fact, most students start with minimal research skills but are eager to learn. Kali said that you just have to learn things along the way to solve problems confronting your research. For instance, Kali’s project required obtaining redox potentials by measuring voltage generated from soil using instruments they made in the lab. As a biologist, her exposure to electrical engineering was minimal, yet during the course of her research she learned enough electrical engineering basics to make sure the instruments worked and how to fix them when they did not work. Kali also stated it was extremely difficult to balance the time requirements of large-scale lab and field experiments while keeping good grades. Kali said she was surprised about the substantial time commitment required to obtain the in-depth data needed to evaluate hypotheses.