NM-INBRE Summer Experience Deepened Brenda Prieto’s Love for Science

Brenda Prieto, NM-INBRE NISE Summer 2020

© Western New Mexico University

“I’m trying to double major in cell/molecular biology and chemistry and might possibly triple major in math. For now, it’s just a minor,” said sophomore Brenda Prieto. “What I want to be is a dentist.”

The Mustang cross country runner who hails from Las Cruces is attending WNMU “because it’s really pretty” in Silver City and she wanted the opportunity to keep running. This summer, Brenda participated in a NM-INBRE Summer Experience.

While the program would normally have had Brenda looking into a microscope, the 2020 version took place over Zoom. “Usually it would have been hands-on in the lab. Because of the pandemic, they had to make it online,” she said. “We began with taking classes. They taught us about DNA sequencing and phylogeny. Once we went over the basics, we started talking about BLAST alignment which helps with the building of phylogenic trees.”

Supplied with laptops equipped with an app that enabled them to code, Brenda and the other students completed bioinformatics activities. “I’d never really thought about coding, but it’s pretty interesting and National Center for Genome Resources pretty much told us how we could get into the program,” she said. “That’s what also got me to wanting to minor in math. I believe a lot of coding is necessary for math here.”

Brenda is currently a math tutor at WNMU and wants to be sure that other students know they can receive help in their classes by joining the Zoom room advertised through the math department webpage.

Finally, Brenda and her colleagues conducted historical research on viruses, looking into the 1918 flu and the bubonic plague. Their final project compared data from three different countries during either COVID-19 or the 1918 flu. “We had to see how each of them was doing with the pandemic and what they were doing to stay safe and whether it was working or not,” she said. “It’s hard because we don’t learn from the past even though it’s very similar.”

The NM-INBRE Summer Experience also included workshops on creating strong resumes, studying well and organizing plans for the future. “It just made me love science even more than I already did,” Brenda said.

This is a WNMU Mustang Scholar profile. If you are interested in pursuing research at WNMU, contact Joe Doyle at 575-538-6658 or doylej@wnmu.edu.

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