"Eggs"-ploring the possibility of undergraduate research
By Lisa L. Wilson
Photo by Lisa L. Wilson
Grader proudly displays one of the chickens that is used in her research.
Irit Grader believes that undergraduate research is a great experience for Purdue University students. And this junior would know, because she completed her own coruse of undergraduate researching during spring 2002.
Grader, an animal sciences and biochemistry major from Israel, was working as a lab assistant in animal sciences when she became interested in the prospect of undergraduate research. She talked with Patricia Hester, professor of animal sciences, and arranged to help in the study of how forced molt affects bone mineral density of laying hens.
Forced molt is a process chicken producers use to rejuvenate hens for a second cycle of lay. Hens are not given food for a period of 10 days. Restrictions also are placed on the amount of daylight hens are exposed to. The molting period causes hormone levels to plummet. Hens do not lay for about one month before egg production is renewed.
"The process of forced molt can be hard on the birds, and I really wanted to do something to help them," Grader said. "I became very interested in this topic of research, and I really wanted to be a part of something that I felt would benefit the animals and make the molting process easier on them."
Grader believes that her experience has helped her become a better student and recommends that all undergraduates in intense research fields, like animal sciences and biochemistry, take the opportunity to work in research. "Undergraduate research allows students to work closely with a professor," Grader said. "You can gain a lot of good experience and learn a lot from someone who is in the field and knows a great deal about research and how it works."
Hester, Grader's mentor while she worked on this research, agrees. "The undergraduate research program is a wonderful opportunity for students to gain insight in how a rsearch project is planned including the development of a hypothesis and actual execution of the experiment," Hester said.
Besides being a full-time undergraduate student, Grader also participates in extracurricular activities. She is a member of the Purdue Dairy Club and the Avian Science Club, and she is currently a Young Graduate House staff resident. One might wonder how she handles all of the reading, writing and research, plus her normal daily life.
"You just have to make the commitment," Grader said. "It's not easy, but it is so rewarding." Before she graduates, Grader would like to do more undergraduate research and hopes to become a veterinarian some day.