Ashley Mar has always been interested in science. Originally from San Francisco, Ashley discovered the Exploratorium, the city’s museum of science, art and human perception, and it quickly became one of her favorite places to visit.
“Science has always been really fascinating to me,” she says. Then, a high school biology class turned her on to scientific research. A biology major in the College of Creative Studies, Ashley’s goal now is to get her Ph.D. and conduct research as a career – and she likes the academic setting.
She first got involved in research through the Research Mentorship Program at UCSB, which brings high school students to campus in the summer for an intensive six-week research experience. Within months of arriving as a freshman, she had successfully landed a research position as an undergraduate in molecular, cellular and developmental biology Professor Joel Rothman’s laboratory.
Her project, for which she did a presentation for the California NanoSystems Institute, is called “Early Cell Fate Restriction in C. elegans.” The goal was to provide a better understanding of stem cells.
“Researchers may be able to induce transformation of somatic cells to an undifferentiated, stem cell-like state, promote the differentiation of stem cells to a target cell type, or more effectively maintain stem cells in culture prior to experimental procedures or transplantation,” she explained in her presentation.
“I learned a lot about dealing with failure in the lab,” Ashley says. Research involves a lot of practice to do things precisely, and it takes some time to understand how the lab works, she adds.