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Budding Scientist Shares Research with Congress

Derrick Chelikowsky ’13 grew up hundreds of miles from the ocean, yet he felt its pull. He always loved water, swimming in his grandparents’ pool and exploring the lakes around upstate New York. He decided he would study sea life.

Chelikowsky’s undergraduate research project was one of just 50 across the nation chosen from among 800 to be shared with members of Congress last month in Washington, D.C.

The title of his project, “The influence of Pavlova, a microalgae, on the development of the Bay Scallop (Argopecten irradiens irradiens),” may be tricky to pronounce but could one day be of great interest to the billion-dollar seafood industry.

Derrick Chelikowsky

Derrick Chelikowsky '13 visited the White House during his trip to Washington, D.C.

He will share his research on campus as part of the 2013 Marine Biology Senior Research Symposium on Friday, May 10. Learn more about the event.

Chelikowsky, a marine biology major, has found that when larval bay scallops ingest an alga called Pavlova, the scallops move on more quickly to the next stage of their life cycle. If spinach, broccoli and blueberries have been called superfoods for people, Pavlova may turn out to be just the thing for scallops.

“If a hatchery can send its product to market faster than its competitors (without damaging the quality of the product), that hatchery has an advantage,” he said. “As for the scallop industry as a whole, addition of Pavlova to the diets of shellfish allows for a better scallop in a shorter period of time.”

Chelikowsky and his professor, Carmela Cuomo, UNH associate professor of biology and environmental science, visited Washington, D.C., last week to share his findings with legislators as part of the Council on Undergraduate Research’s 17th Annual Posters on the Hill event. The council brings undergraduate researchers together with legislators to apprise them of the best of the cutting-edge research happening on the undergraduate level at universities across the country. 

Cuomo said it is no surprise that his work was chosen. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for Derrick personally and as a budding scientist,” she said. “We’ve always expected him to become a scientist. It’s been fun to watch as he fulfills his dream and important to all of us in the department. The University community should be very proud of Derrick.” 

She said it is vitally important students share their research and insights with Congress so funding for research continues and research moves ever forward. “Investing in undergraduate research is investing in the future of our country and our planet,” Cuomo said.

Chelikowsky said his time in Washington, D.C., was an experience he won’t forget. “It’s not every day you to get to present your work to Congress,” he said. After sharing his poster, he was sought out by some Connecticut Congressional staff members and spent time talking with each of them. 

“They were very interested in my research because the shellfishing industry in Connecticut is a big industry,” he said. “Three staff members asked for copies of the paper I am writing.”

He had never been to Washington before so he spent the morning before his presentation walking the National Mall by himself, taking in all of the monuments. On the second day, he and his mother and grandfather walked the mall together. “We passed the White House, the cherry blossoms were out,” he said. “It was beautiful.”

Chelikowsky, from North Tonawanda, N.Y., dove into research as soon as he arrived at UNH, working with Cuomo in her lab. He later took part in a Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) experience, working at the National Marine Fisheries Service Lab in Milford, under the direction of Gary Wikfors. “This program has given me the confidence that I can do research, not just lab work,” said Chelikowsky.

While marine science is his passion, Chelikowsky made time for his many other interests while at UNH, playing trumpet in the marching and jazz bands, participating in the USGA and serving as president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Club and sergeant in arms of the Marine Biology Club.

After graduation, he will continue his research work at the fisheries lab in Milford, working to prove what it is within the alga that causes the early metamorphosis in scallops. He will also write and eventually publish a three-part paper on his research, which is a collaborative study between UNH, Syracuse University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He plans to work for a year and then pursue a master’s degree and, eventually, a Ph.D.

“I am grateful to everyone who helped me,” he said. “It is an honor for me, as well as the support system I have here at UNH and at the lab in Milford.

Written by Jackie Hennessey Communications and Public Affairs Writer/Editor. To see this story in UNH Today, please click here. 
http://unhtoday.newhaven.edu/index.php/component/content/article/1840#MarineBio

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