Dr. Heather Marella | Biological Sciences | Bridgewater State University


♫ [acoustic guitar] ♫ Hi. I’m Dr. Heather Marella. I am a part of the team that teaches General
Biology II, which is a first-year course that covers evolution and the diversity of life
on Earth. I also teach upper-level electives in Plant
Physiology and Parasitology. These courses are designed for juniors and
seniors that emphasize developing and refining the skills of a scientist, like writing and
experimentation. Occasionally, I also teach the laboratory
for the Genetics core course and also second-year seminars on various interesting
biological topics. I am a Plant Biologist that studies how plants
interact with other organisms in their environment. Some of these interactions are beneficial
for the plant while others are detrimental. My research uses a combination of approaches,
such as genetics and cellular and molecular biology to examine these relationships between
the plant and the other organisms. I have two major research projects that students
work on. The first project looks at the interaction
between Arabidopsis plants and a parasitic nematode. Parasitic nematodes are a major agricultural
pests and cost farmers billions in lost revenue annually. This research is conducted entirely in my
laboratory as we can grow both the plants and nematodes together on petri dishes. The second project is a collaborative project
with Dr. Fisher-Reid and a nationwide group of scientists studying the local adaption
of milkweed. In particular, we are looking at the interaction
between milkweed plants and a beneficial soil fungus. This research takes place in the experimental
milkweed garden on campus during the growing season, and also my in research lab for the molecular
genetics work, from late fall to late spring. Students in my lab use a wide variety of techniques, dependent on the type of question they are asking. But generally students will learn how to grow
plants from seeds in controlled environments and sterile culture techniques. Once they have grown the plants, we then extract
the DNA and RNA to understand what is happening at the gene level during the interaction with
the other organisms. We also monitor changes using techniques like
PCR and qPCR. Students also monitor levels of infection
of fungus or nematodes through staining and microscopy. My research team is typically comprised of
4-6 students at various stages of their college career. Students typically join my team as a sophomore
or junior and work on building lab skills that first semester by working
with me one-on-one and also shadowing a senior student. After the first semester, I will work with
the student to develop an individual project that they will continue with until
they graduate. I have weekly meetings with each student to work on
experiments. We also have weekly group meetings for the
whole team where we discuss research articles or learn new techniques as a group. Undergraduate researchers really blossom as
scientists, as they experience the process of how science works as they conduct research. I am committed to including undergraduates
in my research because it has the power to take you from a person that likes science
to a person that does science. Doing undergraduate research changed my life
and it can do the same for you. I would love to speak with you more about
my courses and research. Please stop by my office or send
me an email at any time. Best of luck to you and I hope to see you
in class.

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