As an undergraduate, Professor Geoffrey Abbott became involved in a research project that he feels had a tremendous impact on the direction and success of his career. As a result, he feels that it is important for his current students to have similar opportunities to explore their research interests. He primarily looks for highly enthusiastic students who are highly motivated to succeed in the lab. Through his mentorship, his students gain valuable experience and skills that can help them as they pursue their future academic and career goals. UROP is pleased to recognize Professor Abbott for his passionate contribution to undergraduate research at UC Irvine.

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

It was during my own undergraduate research project, many years ago, that I first started to develop my own hypotheses to solve a scientific question. This involved using lead levels in the marine lugworm (Arenicola marina) as a biomarker for understanding the environmental impact on coastal areas of increased hunting and fishing activities arising from the national coal miners' strike in the UK. I worked with the excellent ecologist and mentor, the late Professor Peter Evans, at University of Durham, England on this project. We would occasionally utilize an amphibious vehicle to collect samples and it was both exciting and rewarding. This set the course for my lifelong interest in biological research. I hope to provide a similar spark of interest for undergraduate researchers in my own lab.

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

The number one quality is enthusiasm, followed by a strong work ethic and the drive to finish projects. With these three qualities anything is possible. I ask that undergraduates become immersed in what they are doing, at least while they are in the lab, and that they ask questions and also help their peers.

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

I still run experiments myself occasionally and I like to check in on trainees at least once a day to see how they are doing and answer any questions they might have. We have had periods when undergraduates will participate in weekly lab meetings, or at other times informal progress reports can suffice. I want the trainees to work hard and focus, but also to enjoy their experience.

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

Many of the undergraduates who have trained in my lab have gone on to fantastic graduate schools, notably top Pharmacy schools such as UCSF. In addition, it is very common for undergraduates in my lab to receive UROP and occasionally other awards to fund their work, including the Dean's Award for Excellence in Research. Several undergraduates in my lab have attained authorships on peer-reviewed research articles in high quality journals such as the FASEB Journal. Finally, I would like to think that all of them leave the lab with a greater ability to discuss science, analyze and present their work to others, and with a greater appreciation of the dedication it takes to become a successful research scientist.

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

That diamonds in the rough are worth spending time on! Watching the students develop their skills and knowledge is very rewarding. Also, by teaching early-stage trainees, one’s ability to discuss complex ideas and systems and distill them down to the essential elements is greatly improved.

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

If you put in the time and effort, you will be rewarded at the end, be it with a grad school place, a publication, a specific skill-set that will serve you well in the future, or most significantly an appreciation of the beauty and complexity of biological systems and a passion to understand them more fully.

Research Interests: Herbal medicine, cardiac arrhythmias, epilepsy, KCNE, KCNQ, molecular pharmacology, potassium channels, solute transporters

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Past Faculty Mentors of the Month

Sep. '19 Maura Allaire
Aug. '19 Alyson K. Zalta
Jul. '19 Geoffrey W. Abbott
Jun. '19 Jacob P. Avery
May. '19 Natascha Trellinger Buswell
Apr. '19 Jenny Yang
Mar. '19 Susanne M. Jaeggi
Feb. '19 Zeba Wunderlich
Jan. '19 Miriam Bender