Dan Turaj

Researching the mysteries of life


SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship) offered me the chance to engross myself in the research experience. I learned new techniques and practiced hands-on what I had spent so many hours studying in books. Working in a lab and taking a class that offers a lab are very different experiences. A lab class offers basic information—like a field trip to the zoo— whereas working in a lab is more like going on your own safari. Through my research project, I was able to study the amazing and intricate mysteries of life at the cellular level. Specifically, my project was to investigate the expression of a family of genes in a plant as it underwent stress. Beginning such scientific research, or any in-depth study, can be daunting for anyone. One of the great benefits of SURF is that you can work closely with a faculty adviser in your area of interest. Their experience provides you with the proper direction and guidance to make your project a reality. In my opinion, the greatest aspect of independent research is the chance to truly experience what a job in a certain field would be like. If you are exploring job options and what you will do after graduation, a research project will help you to make decisions about what interests you. I don’t think I want to continue research in molecular biology after graduation, but I know that when I complete my work with Arabidopsis thaliana, the geneticist’s model plant, the unique research that I have done will add new information to the world of plant biology, and that others may someday use my information as a foundation for future research. Knowing that I have made this contribution gives me a great sense of accomplishment that surpasses anything I’ve done in the classroom.

--Dan Turaj ‘04