Professor Diane ODowd looks to mentor highly motivated students who are eager to learn. She first started research as an undergraduate and understands the importance of a positive research early in ones college education. She also highly recommends getting an early start, which allows a student the chance to mature as much as possible within the lab environment. UROP is proud to recognize Professor ODowd for her continuing commitment to undergraduate research.

1. How did you develop an interest in mentoring undergraduate research or creative projects, and what type of projects have you directed?

I began my career in science as an undergraduate research student in a neurochemistry lab as a freshman at Stanford. After only a few weeks in the lab I felt like I had found my calling in research. I stayed in the same lab, completed my honors thesis and went straight to graduate school in neuroscience. When I started as an assistant professor at UC Irvine I wanted to give my undergraduates the same positive experience I had. My students work closely with graduate students and postdocs on a wide variety of neuroscience projects from electrophysiology to behavior. In the last five years we have also had students who have worked on science education research projects.

2. What do you look for and what are your expectations of undergraduates you select to conduct research under your guidance?

I look for students who are highly motivated, not daunted by the technical challenges, and cant wait to see the results of their experiments.

3. Describe your level of engagement and style in mentoring undergraduates.

My students in general have a postdoc or graduate student assigned as their direct mentor. I work with the team to help establish goals and interpret results. I also work directly with the students to prepare lab meeting presentations, abstracts, posters, and talks.

4. In your experience, how have your students improved or benefited as a result of their undergraduate research experience?

I have had a large number of outstanding students. The majority start at the end of their freshman year, and it is always exciting to see them mature in their scientific thinking over the next three years. It is particularly wonderful when they participate in Excellence in Research and the culmination of their creative and dedicated work results in a poster, paper and oral presentation.

5. What have you learned or benefited from guiding undergraduate research or creative projects?

Many of the projects in the lab have directly benefited from insights provided by the students as they work on a project. For example Monica (now a resident in neurology at UC Irvine) was the first to recognize that one of our Drosophila mutants not only had a defect in their calcium channels, but that this altered their climbing behavior. She was an author on the paper that included the data describing this deficit.

6. What recommendations and advice would you give students embarking on undergraduate research or creative projects?

Come to lab each day enthusiastic to do the experiments and hungry to see the results.

Research Interests: Synaptic transmission, plasticity, ion channels, Drosophila, genetics, learning and memory, nicotine

Faculty Profile:


Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Dec. '13 Jean Gehricke
Nov. '13 Sergey Nizkorodov
Oct. '13 David S. Meyer
Sep. '13 Kieron Burke
Aug. '13 Mahtab Jafari
Jul. '13 Andr van der Hoek
Jun. '13 Abraham P. Lee
May. '13 Sheryl Tsai
Apr. '13 Julia Reinhard Lupton
Mar. '13 Richard Matthew
Feb. '13 Jogeshwar Mukherjee
Jan. '13 Diane K. ODowd