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2018 SRE Program Participant Profiles: Annastashia Blesi

Annastashia Blesi photo.

Hometown: Atoka, TN
School: University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Major/Degree and Year: Physics; Senior
SRE Mentors: Suzanne Lenhart, Becky Trout Fryxell
SRE Research Project: Mosquito Population Response to Environmental Variables

Why did you apply to the SRE program?
I applied for the program because I have a mixed set of interests, and this program seemed like a great way to both satisfy those interests and to gain valuable research experience.

Quotation image.

When I got here, I was unsure that I would ever belong because I have almost no background in biology. The other participants of this program are some of the kindest people that exist, so just don't be afraid to put yourself out there. Quotation image.

– Annastashia Blesi, SRE participant

What is the purpose of your research?
Our research is investigating the effects that environmental conditions have on a population of mosquitos over a summer. By using precipitation and a temperature effect called "degree days," we are hoping to see if our project can help predict when mosquitoes will be present in an area, and hopefully helping predict when La Crosse virus will be in the area. Ultimately, we hope that the CDC can use the information about the mosquito populations and La Crosse virus presence to use preventative measures to control mosquito populations and prevent La Crosse outbreaks.

Describe a typical day on the job.
My other two group members and I all live in the same apartment space, so my day on the job looks a bit different from other members of the SRE. When we all wake up, we head to the living room for coffee and model simulation discussions. In the beginning of the program, so probably for the first month, we had all separated the tasks needing to be done to best utilize the team members, so I had spent a lot of time analyzing our data and spreadsheets. Toward the end of the program, we are all running models with Matlab, so our time is a bit more flexible. Around lunchtime, we head to either NIMBioS or the library to get more productive work done, and to prep for the meeting with our mentors. We meet with our mentors roughly three times a week, so we make sure that we are all updating our LaTex document with important progress that we have made. When we decide to leave the office, around 3-4, we go back to our apartment, and much of the discussion is centered around the project.

Tell us something about your field of study we would be surprised to know.
If you miss a spot of your body with bug spray, the mosquito will know and try to bite that spot, so always rub in your bug spray, like you would sunscreen. Also, if 200,000 mosquitoes bit you at once, you would lose enough blood to faint.

What were your favorite parts of the SRE program? Explain.
My favorite parts of the SRE program were getting to know every person that I encountered. Not only my fellow SRE participants, although they are fantastic, but I enjoyed forming bonds with people like NIMBioS Director Lou Gross and NIMBioS Computational Data Engineer Eric Carr through casual space conversation, or even talking about Pokémon go. I enjoyed experiencing working with the other participants because we all come from very different walks of life, and we were able to bond through this experience doing research, and things like going to see the fireflies in the Smokies.

What advice would you give someone who's interested in/curious about participating in the program?
Do not be afraid to put yourself out there and apply. I come from zero research experience, and my major is physics. When I got here, I was unsure that I would ever belong because I have almost no background in biology. The other participants of this program are some of the kindest people that exist, so just don't be afraid to put yourself out there.

Would you recommend our program to others? Explain.
I would recommend this to others. I think this program has a great focus on interdisciplinary areas, which is vital to future careers in either research and industry.

Related Links

Main SRE page
2018 Summer Program

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University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN 37996-3410
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FAX: (865) 974-9461
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From 2008 until early 2021, NIMBioS was supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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