Even before she entered college as an undergraduate student, Alanna Mnich – a PhD student at UMassD’s School for Marine Science & Technology – knew she wanted to major in the sciences. “I really enjoyed the biology and environmental science classes I took in high school,” said the Connecticut native. “I love nature and the ocean, so I wanted to take full advantage of studying marine science during my college years.”
Nurturing a passion for marine science
Alanna’s interests led her to the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science, which allowed her to double major and double minor in marine science and biology, as well as chemistry and psychology. While at Rosenstiel, one of her professors recognized her passion for the marine sciences.
“He suggested I further my studies, and I chose SMAST because it has excellent facilities and the opportunity to gain real-world experience by conducting lab work–not to mention the resources afforded to SMAST students and very high-caliber faculty,” she said.
“For example, my advisor, Dr. Mark Altabet, has been instrumental in guiding me through the research as well as the application process for the LOREX program. He’s an excellent mentor with very interesting and insightful research ideas and is extremely knowledgeable about the field of biogeochemistry.”
Collaborating with faculty at a world-class institution
Alanna says she also finds the atmosphere at SMAST very conducive to student success and the professors very helpful. “I believe they really care about the students’ academic experience and research. I regularly see professors who I am not actively working with, but they pull me aside to share research articles with me because they know about my areas of study and interests. They also connect me with potential collaborators.”
Studying abroad as an ASLO LOREX scholar
Next summer, Alanna will be based in Israel at the University of Haifa in the Leon H. Charney School of Marine Sciences where she will study phytoplankton in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea during her ASLO LOREX program. “I look forward to collaborating with Dr. Berman-Frank through the University of Haifa where I’ll focus on the mesocosm manipulations,” she said.
“The ASLO LOREX program is a very unique opportunity. I’m really excited to be afforded the experience to travel, conduct research abroad, and interact with international collaborators. I’ll be spending a month or so in Israel for the hands on research portion of the project, and the program is also funding me to attend the Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego in February, my first time attending a major conference. I’ll also publish my research and present my findings.”
Conducting scholarly research
Aside from the networking opportunities at the Ocean Sciences Meeting as well as the University of Haifa, as well as the footprint from publishing the results, the work may feed into Alanna’s thesis research. “I anticipate that my thesis research will concentrate on larval Atlantic bluefin tuna. One of the historical spawning grounds for this large pelagic and highly migratory species has been the Mediterranean Sea, so better understanding the biogeochemistry of the area can lead us to a broader perspective on what draws them to a spawning site.”