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Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program

Nicholas DiRienzo

What Summer did you participate in the K-State REU Program: 2008

Highest Degree Earned: B.S. – Biology, Benedictine University, 2009

Current Position: PhD Candidate – University California,  Davis

Photos: Then (REU Canoe Trip 2008; left), Now (right)

Briefly describe your REU research project. 

I investigated the function of the hemolymph nuptial gift that male ground crickets (Allonemobius socius) provide to the female during copulation.

What did you learn from this REU project? 

I think the big thing that I learned is that data collection can be tedious and frustrating, and there’s no way around it.  The satisfaction, for me at least, comes from analyzing the data, doing the statistics, and thinking about what the results mean in a larger context.  This has been one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned, and is something I remind myself when I spend long days in the lab conducting the same behavioral assay over and over!

What was the best thing you remember about your summer in Manhattan, KS? 

I did my undergrad at a very small university.  It was great working at K-State since there was so many more scientist and resource compared to what I was used to.  It was just an incredibly intellectually stimulation experience, and showed me how amazing it is to be in large academic setting.

Briefly describe how the REU influenced your development as biologist

The REU allowed me to distill down my research interests more than I had been able to previously.  Prior to it I was generally interested in evolutionary biology and animal behavior, but between conducting my own research and seeing what everyone else was doing I became more focused.  This has paid off in that I entered graduate school with specific questions in mind and was able to start my research in my first quarter.

Did your experience in the REU significantly influence your career goals?  If so, how? 

The REU greatly influenced my goals, but more importantly, it gave me the skills and experience to actually achieve them.  For one, it was a big factor in me being admitted to the UC Davis Animal Behavior Graduate Group.  Additionally, it helped me win a NSF GRF fellowship.  In each case, the admissions committee or reviewers positively sited my REU experience in their decision.

Did you publish or present your REU research?  If so please provide the details.  

The manuscript from my REU research is submitted.  I also presented a poster at the national Sigma Xi research symposium, as well as giving several talks at regional undergraduate science symposiums.

DiRienzo, N. and J.L. Marshall. Consequences of nuptial gift giving in a cricket: evidence for sexual conflict, but against mating effort and parental investment.  Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology submitted.