Jess Yu '19 at the STARS program, U.C. San Diego.

Looking for an internship that fit his love for biology, Jesse Yu ’19, came upon an opportunity in a lab at New York University’s Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, and he snagged a position there spring semester.

Yu, an environmental sciences major, didn’t have lab research experience nor had he taken many courses relevant to the work done in the lab, but that was kind of the point. He wanted to explore new academic and career interests — to dive into the unknown, as he puts it. He came up with a project that looked at the impact of cadmium exposure on different strains of diatom species.

about Jesse Yu '19

Major: Environmental Studies

Hometown: Malden, Mass.

High School: Malden High School

Read about other student internships

The internship was a great experience for him. “Having the freedom to come up with my own assay was easily the most memorable part because I was able to turn my own curiosities into experiments and data which I thought was so cool,” Yu says.

That internship last until early summer, funded by Hamilton College, then it was on to his second great summer experience, across the country from the first.

“Luckily enough, I stumbled upon the STARS program at University of California, San Diego. The program was perfect because it provided me with a research experience in a field of Biology that I was not familiar with, graduate school preparation workshops and GRE preparation courses, and it was in Southern California, a place I would love to live after graduation,” he says.

At STARS, Yu is working in an evolutionary systems biology lab, conducting research with yeast and algae species. “The two species are not known to interact in nature but once they are placed in a synthetic system, they quickly form a mutualistic relationship revolving around nitrogen and carbon. In certain environmental conditions however, the relationship turns competitive where the yeast completely out competes the algae,” Yu explains. He’s manipulating conditions to see when and how the relationship becomes a competitive one.

Each day Yu is learning something new and and meeting amazing people with whom he hopes to build lasting relationships. And he considers himself better prepared for grad school in biology. “Every day is a challenge, and the work may feel a bit overwhelming, but it is so incredibly rewarding at the same time,” he says.

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