Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior Graduate Student Luis A. Bonachea
I am a fourth year PhD student in EEB, working with Dr. Michael Ryan on topics in sexual selection. My research focuses on the effects of predation risk on decisions about mate assessment and courtship, using a variety of systems including the tngara frog, Physalaemus pustulosus. My work is a mix of laboratory studies using a colony of captive frogs as well as field studies in Gamboa, Panama under the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Teaching is a strong focus of mine and will be a big part of what mentees under me will experience.
My Experience in the IE Pre-Graduate School Mentorship Program
My first experience with the IE program was in the spring of 2007, with Jill Kuzniarek as my first intern. Jill joined me during an interesting point in any graduate student's life, the semester I defended my dissertation proposal. I went into the semester with certain goals for out time together. I wanted Jill to be able to see how research projects begin, how graduate students put together and defend their dissertation proposals, and the joys/trials of teaching. Jill and I met every week, putting together a new project, researching it, and sending it off for IACUC approval. In addition, Jill attended my graduate courses and even taught a discussion section on her own (and did wonderfully I might add). I hope that Jill gained a much better picture of what graduate school is and can't be happier with her enthusiasm for the research we're starting right now.
As rewarding as it was for Jill, I have to say it might have been even more rewarding for me. From a professional standpoint, graduate students entering academia will eventually need to learn to manage graduate students under them. While graduate students have always had the option of getting volunteers to assist them, the IE program formalizes this into a true mentor-mentee relationship, giving me valuable insight into what kind of advisor I will be one day, where my strengths are, and where I still need to improve. I doubt that anything available to us is closer to the role we will fill later in our careers. On a more personal level, it is easy to get lost in the day to day deadlines and research and manuscripts and teaching loads that come to dominate our lives. It was amazing how much having Jill around caused me to step back to see the bigger picture. Seeing her in her final years in undergrad, preparing for graduate school, and thinking back to when I was in her shoes let me see just how far I'd come. I've just lined up my second mentee for this fall and I couldn't be happier to be part of this program.
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