Dr. Elizabeth Marie Fozo
Assistant Professor, Microbiology
College of Arts and Sciences
Where and when was your research/creative experience as an undergraduate?
University of Delaware, 1998-1999
What did you do?
I worked for an evolutionary biologist who was interested in seeing if certain genes were present in small insects that live along beaches and marshy areas. We went out a couple of times along the Delaware coastline and actually gathered up some insects.
How did your mentor help you?
My mentor was John McDonald, and he was great. He was really upbeat and he was very much a teacher, so he liked to have undergrads in the lab. He was really supportive in terms of class work and giving us suggestions. My project was a total flop, but he even tried it and things just wouldn’t work, even for him, but he said at least I had a lot of determination. He was very encouraging, especially when things weren’t working and very encouraging in terms of my interest in research.
What is your favorite memory from that time?
It was actually being in the lab with John, who was the P.I. (my mentor), and the other students. There were some times where there would be three or four of us in the lab together working, we were all doing our own things but we would chat. It’s not a particular memory, but it was just those times when we were together in the lab working together and helping each other out.
How did your experience benefit you?
It gave me a real taste of research. It gave me a real taste of the reality of research—that although you have success, there are a lot of failures and how to handle that. My plan was to go to medical school, and I realized in my junior year that I really liked molecular biology and microbiology. So I came to research pretty late when I realized that I didn’t want to be an M.D. I really liked the thought of being at the bench doing research.
How does that experience impact your student engagement today?
Because I had undergrad research experience, it was important for me to go to an institute where I could have undergrads in the lab. For me, I think it’s really important to engage people who are thinking about science—the next generation. I got my chance; somebody took a chance on me in letting my play in their lab.
What advice would you offer to students today who seek a similar experience?
One of the hardest things about research opportunities, especially in the sciences, is that a lot of labs are full, so I would suggest starting as early as possible.
Why should students seek such an experience?
The course material will make more sense. You will actually get to see what you are memorizing in a textbook really come to life and you will have a much better understanding of your course material. It also teaches you about flexibility and how to adapt and how to think on your feet which is something you will have to do regardless of what you do in life.
What interesting fact about yourself might surprise your students?
I was a double major in Biology and Latin, and I have a minor in History.
Office of Undergraduate Research
1534 White Ave.
Knoxville, TN 37996-1529
Phone: (865) 974-1475