2021 NSF REU Program: Summer Research Profile Series

Photo of Sather Gate with no people in the frameThink the summer is quiet at UC Berkeley? Not for undergraduates gaining first-hand research experience in campus labs through the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (NSF REU) program. The NSF REU program aims to promote diversity in the national biosciences workforce by funding research opportunities for undergraduates. 

In partnership with the NSF REU, the Molecular and Cell Biology (MCB) Department hosts undergraduates from across the nation to gain laboratory experience and conduct cutting-edge research in department labs each summer. For ten weeks, REU scholars are integrated members of MCB labs, where they receive mentorship from graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and faculty PIs.

Each week from late June through August 13, we're profiling our 2021 NSF REU participants. So stay tuned to learn a bit about some of the fascinating people participating in this year's NSF REU at Berkeley program.

This week meet Fernando Bolio and Megan Kober.

Fernando Bolio headshotFERNANDO BOLIO

Feldman Lab
Rising Senior | Pomona College
Hometown: Santa Clarita, CA

Are you working in a lab now? If yes, what institution & who’s lab?
For the REU program, I'm working at UC Berkeley in Daniel Feldman's lab. Outside of the REU, I am not conducting any research besides my upcoming Senior Thesis in Elizabeth Glater's lab at Pomona College.

Why did you decide to participate in the program this summer? What are you hoping to gain from the experience?
I participated in the program this summer for several reasons, but I primarily joined due to the level of support offered through the REU program. Not only was I provided with a generous stipend and housing, but with several workshops and mentors to help guide me through the summer and for the future such as graduate programs. From this experience, I’m hoping to have a wonderful time with my peers and conduct good science in the laboratory. In addition to learning new techniques and gaining knowledge about how research works in a prestigious institution like Berkeley, I hope to explore San Francisco and create wonderful memories with my fellow REU students.

What’s been a highlight of the program or lab experience so far? Are there any challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest highlight of the program is how quickly I’ve bonded with my fellow REU students through dinners and get-togethers. It’s been incredible to mesh so well with your peers and it makes it feel like you’ve been friends for years. Recently, we took the BART train to explore San Francisco and had a wonderful time exploring Pier 39 and the farmer’s market. The biggest challenge that I’ve had to overcome so far is navigating the spaces given to us due to COVID. Although more doors are opening and requirements have been relaxing, it’s still not definite how/when I should be wearing masks. So far it’s been a pleasant experience being part of the Feldman lab and the REU program, absolutely no complaints there!

Fernando Bolio and 5 NSF REU scholars taking a group selfie after lunch
In addition to gaining hands-on research experience, Berkeley Biology REU scholars are surrounded by a community that shares their passion for science and learning. Here Fernando Bolio and some of his new friends took time for a selfie after sharing a meal on campus. Pictured left to right Maxwell Miyasato, Sofia Beskid, Lance Li, Malyka Norville, Danny Ibanez, Fernando Bolio. Photo courtesy Fernando Bolio.

What is your research project this summer?
My research project focuses on elucidating the mechanisms behind sensory sensitivities in autistic individuals. To accomplish this, the Feldman lab uses autistic-mice models to conduct experiments on neuronal circuits in the brain and discover how information is processed and transmitted between neurons in the brain. My particular project is investigating the expression of ER81, an important protein that could be a key player in the neuronal circuit we’re investigating.  

What are you looking forward to doing/exploring in Berkeley/the Bay Area this summer and why?
I look forward to visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, the Museum of Modern Art, & Alcatraz! I also plan on camping/hiking through Yosemite, Sequoia, & the Redwoods since I love strolling through nature and viewing its wonderful sights. There are too many things to list, but ultimately I look forward to trying new things and having a wonderful time with my new friends.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience in the program?
It’s been everything that I’ve hoped it to be, and I recommend it to any students who are looking to enter the land of science and get their feet wet working in the lab and in the Bay!

Megan Kober headshotMEGAN KOBER

Ph.D. Student | Titov Lab

What motivated you to participate in the REU program?
As a scientist, I am incredibly motivated by relationships with the people I work with. Therefore, I wanted to expand my skillset in working with people by taking on a formal mentoring role.

What are some of the highlights of your experience mentoring REU students so far?
I really appreciated the mentee-mentor orientation facilitated by the NSF REU program. In addition to this, it has been incredibly refreshing to work with an enthusiastic and dedicated students early on in their career.

Megan Korber and friends enjoying pizza lunch on lawn at UC Berkeley
Megan Kober (front left) with fellow NSF REU participants and lab members enjoying a pizza lunch on campus before heading back to the lab. Photo courtesy Megan Kober.

What was the most impactful mentoring experience you had and how has it influenced your own mentoring style?
This is my first time serving as a formal mentor to a younger student. However, I would say that my mentoring style has been highly influenced by my personal experiences as a student in various REU and post-baccalaureate programs similar to the NSF REU.


Learn more about the NSF REU @Berkeley program: mcb.berkeley.edu/nsfreu/

Read MCB's Fall 2018 newsletter article about the program: mcb.berkeley.edu/news-and-events/transcript/fall-2018-nsf-reu-program

Visit the Feldman and Titov lab websites to learn more about their research programs:

​Banner image adapted from photo courtesy of Keegan Houser, UC Berkeley.