Undergraduate student Mareena Biju awarded UROP fellowship

Undergraduate student Mareena Biju awarded UROP fellowship

Mareena Biju, a 3rd year PharmSci major, has been awarded a UROP research grant to better understand the selectivity in cell specific labeling of RNA.

The grant was awarded through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program at UCI which provides funding in support of UCI faculty-mentored undergraduate research and creative projects.

“I applied to UROP as it provides support to undergraduate researchers through funding, writing workshops, and events like the UROP symposium,” says Mareena. “All these opportunities help foster undergraduate student’s participation in research.”

Mareena will be conducting her research under the guidance of Professor Robert Spitale in the Spitale Lab. Mareena shares why it’s important for students to get involved in research and how she became interested in studying the pharmaceutical sciences at UCI.

Why is it important for students to get involved with research?

Being part of research is beneficial in that it provides a different approach to learning which I have not experienced in my grade school education. Through my participation in research, I have been able to apply the concepts I have learned in my classes and gain a deeper understanding of scientific procedures. Research allows a different perspective of science through a hands on approach allowing for me to think more critically of the material I am provided with. Being a kinesthetic and visual learner I personally have found research to be very impactful in my learning because I am able to perform similar experiments to what I learn in class and better comprehend the material based on analysis of the data I collect.

Why did you decide to major in PharmSci at UCI?

All my life my parents have been very cautious in the medications they gave to me. Being huge advocates of natural medicine, they would always try their very best to avoid prescription drugs unless absolutely necessary.

As I grew older I got to learn that pharmaceuticals was an unknown field for them and not knowing what chemicals they place in themselves and their children led to their avoidance of prescription drugs. Seeing this, I found it important to know what I put into my body and teach others around me what I knew. Being a pharmacist would allow me to know the various medications and teach me the proper time and use for each drug. Knowing that I would one day want to go to pharmacy school, the PharmSci major seemed like a great opportunity to prepare.

What clubs/activities are you involved in at UCI?

I am a part of the Spitale Lab which focuses on developing tools to explain the complex RNA expression that lead to cellular diversity. Through the lab I have been able to see science from a unique perspective different from that seen in classroom textbooks. I have been able to work with my graduate student mentor to expand my understanding of RNA and apply the material I learn in my classes into daily lab practices.I am also a part of the PharmSci Commuter Connection program in which I was a student my first year and a TA my second. This program was designed to help first year PharmSci commuters get through their first year at UCI with opportunities like free tutoring, tips and tricks to succeed at UCI, and endless bonding. It is through this that I made my closest friends at UCI.

What PharmSci faculty member or class is most memorable and why?

Dr. Spitale has been the most memorable faculty member for me. He has been very supportive in cultivating my growth in research and ensuring that I am prepared when it comes time for me to apply for pharmacy school. His knowledge and drive in the field of research has been an inspiration for me during my time in his lab. After graduation I hope to go to pharmacy school to pursue a PharmD degree. My time at UCI so far has shown me a variety of career opportunities available with a degree beyond being a pharmacist.

What do you hope to do after graduation?

Choosing to come to UCI and be a part of PharmSci has been one of the best decisions in my life. PharmSci has provided me the support and opportunities needed for me to grow. The family environment that the major provides with events such as Self-Care Friday are comforting and reassuring in a stressful college environment.

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