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Sophomore's Zeal for Research Nurtured by ACE Award

SpiderKarina Zamora, a sophomore majoring in Natural Science, learned that she actually did enjoy the research process during her second semester of General Biology Lab taught by Associate Professor Martin Ramirez.

“Professor Ramirez’s class was fun and hands-on. Instead of sitting and listening to a lecture, I got to experience what we were discussing firsthand. It made me actually want to do the research,” Zamora said.

And now, as a recipient of an Academic Community of Excellence (ACE) Undergraduate Research Award, Zamora has the opportunity to continue her love of research. She will collaborate again with Ramirez, this time to study the gene flow among habitat patches on a fragmented landscape in the sow bug killer spider Dysdera crocata.

“I never thought I would receive an opportunity like this before. To get involved and do research while I am an undergraduate will definitely broaden my horizons and help further my education,” Zamora said.

Zamora’s research requires her to collect at least 50 spiders from many sites across the Los Angeles basin, including Torrance, Kenneth Hahn Park, the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the Ballona Wetlands. Since the Dysdera crocata spiders are ground-dwellers and do not aerially disperse, Zamora’s research will look at the degree of genetic differences among sites and determine to what degree the spiders can move between sites. Zamora said that although she wasn’t initially a big fan of spiders she’s learned to deal with them.

“At first, I was creeped out by having to touch the spiders, but now I know it’s not that bad,” Zamora said.Karina Zamora

ACE is geared toward students with strong academic records and a commitment to high educational and professional achievement. Students who receive Undergraduate Research Awards work with a faculty adviser over the course of a semester, and present their work at the annual ACE Research Symposium in the fall.

“I am so honored to work with Professor Ramirez again. He is so encouraging and helpful, and open to being involved in and creating a project,” Zamora said. “Maybe we will find some significant information and our work will be published in a journal or I can turn it into my senior thesis project.”

Photos: (top left) A picture of the sow bug killer spider Dysdera crocata

(bottom right) Karina Zamora on the left and a fellow student search for spiders