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Final Reflection

Submitted by hamacdonald on Tue, 12/12/2017 - 17:47

Hailey MacDonald

Writing in Biology Final Relfection

Professor Brewer

December 12th 2017



            The first project we did this semester I found very difficult at first. I took far too many hours typing out the methods trying to make them as concise and replicable as possible only to find the replica of my figure to be a mess. I left out simple things and probably over explained other things. As frustrating as this was, it was the exact purpose of the methods project. So from a learning standpoint the project did exactly what it was intended to do. Teach us how important it is to specify every detail clearly when writing as a biologist. Aside from the insight gained from this project, I enjoyed it just because we got to go explore campus. It was a nice change of pace in the beautiful weather to be assigned a project that made me go find something that I found interesting and take a picture of it. Similarly it was fun to try and follow Taylor’s instruction and find his plant. It was like a game almost but with a lot more writing. I really enjoyed this first project.


            The proposal we felt a little bit more like we knew what we were doing after the methods project. Working in a group definitely was very helpful as often times one group member would catch something I wouldn’t or vice versa. Learning about the planarians and the many possible routes you could go for research with them was awesome. It was cool to be designing an experiment for once as a undergraduate student instead of always following someone else’s. Our group actually ended up getting voted to be the project the whole class did which was both really exciting and intimidating. It took us many extra hours of work perfecting our proposal to work for all the groups that wanted to do it. And also, it was nerve-wracking because if something didn’t work out the way we thought you felt responsible for everyone’s project. It ended up being very rewarding being chosen and was a new experience for all of us kind of leading a research experiment for a large group of people.


            This was my favorite part of the semester. At this point, we had done all of the leg work, spent many hours writing and rewriting the proposal, spent time in the lab measuring out planarians, and it was finally time to show off everything we did. Although it was somewhat tedious to maneuver Scribus, it ended up being a very user-friendly software. It was very cool to pick the layout and design this poster board to broadcast everything we had been doing all semester. It really tied together the whole semester and gave us insight into the process a scientist takes when working in research. I felt so proud once we had our final poster printed out. I can only imagine how a team of scientist would feel looking at their final work up on the poster and presenting it. It must be an awesome feeling after what could be years of work.


            Writing this reflection right now is putting this whole semester of writing projects into perspective for me. Although I did realize there was flow to the projects while we were going I did not realize exactly how perfectly these projects went from one to another. I really enjoyed doing a class where the projects all relate and flow from one to the next. It makes each individual one feel less daunting because there was a stepping stone from the last project. It also is very realistic because this is how it would be if we were to design a research proposal in real life. The final product was very rewarding. It was awesome to see all of my peers excited about their posters as well. Walking around the room everyone was very proud of their work and interested in everyone else’s. 

Ecology Assignment 6

Submitted by hamacdonald on Tue, 12/12/2017 - 17:13

Part A: Based on the data in the figure, what biological process is the most likely explanation for the patterns observed in panel A and for the one observed in panel B of the figure? Briefly explain. This should be fairly easy after the Tuesday 12/5 lecture.

The explanation for the patterns observed in panel A could be explained by Biomagnification. The graph is comparing amount of contamination at the varying trophic levels. Biomagnification is when higher amounts of contamination is found in higher trophic levels due to the consumption of organisms with contamination. The organisms on the top of the food pyramid would have the highest amount of contamination.

Panel B would be explained by bioaccumulation. The graph is only showing one individual organism and the increasing contamination over the span of its life. This makes sense because bioaccumulation occurs as the organism easts contaminants that cannot be excreted by the organism. Eventually the contamination builds up over time.

Part B: Suppose that for panel B, you only sample individuals from a single trophic level. To which trophic level do individuals in panel B belong? Briefly explain

This individual would be from trophic level 1 because the contaminant level is between 1-10 which matches as the trophic level one in Panel A. This individual would be a primary producer.

Part C: If a species in this food web must consume a largely carnivorous diet, which kinds of individuals would it need to hunt to have the lowest possible risk of exposure to the contaminants? Consider your entire data set. 

In order for a carnivore to eat organisms with the lowest risk of contamination it should eat organisms from the second trophic level. The contamination levels vary from 10-15. This way the carnivore gets the meat it requires while also consuming the lowest possible amount of contaminates. 

Boltwood Final Reflection

Submitted by hamacdonald on Tue, 12/12/2017 - 17:08

Hailey MacDonald, Boltwood Spruce Hills, Kate Masterson
This was my first semester with the Boltwood Project. I worked with the Spruce Hill

ladies and it was an awesome experience. Four women live at Spruce Hills Judy, Rosie, Nicky, and Barbara. They make our work there so very easy because they have such a lovely dynamic. Although they have varying degrees of abilities they all get along very well. No fighting over attention or arguing ever. For example, Judy and Rosie are very aware of social cues and what is going on while Barbara a little less so and Nicky the least. Instead of ever getting frustrated with her they all work together very well which was awesome to work with. We spent very little time diffusing anything and most of our time just having fun!

One group member I felt I got to know particularly was Rosie. Rosie enjoyed it when the group got together around the table but often enjoyed sitting at the couches too. Sometimes because of back pain and others I think she just enjoyed her alone time. Rosie is one of the highest function members of the group and as I stated previously she is very respectful of everyone in the house. Also everyone was respectful when she choose not to directly participate in the group activity. I would often ask her if she wasn’t at the table if she still wanted me to make her the craft the group was doing and she loved this. She was always very appreciative of whatever she made me and often times would tell me she was going to give it to her boyfriend. This makes me happy because I know it must be a good feeling for her to be able to give her boyfriend something and for him to get excited about it as well. I know he is likely very excited because we have had the pleasure of meeting David a few times now this semester and he loves just about any kind of craft.

One of my favorite memories this semester involves David. The last week we went to Spruce Hill we did a lot of Christmas themed stuff and he was over. He gets very excited about

anything we do and he was particularly loving decorating a Santa hat with his name on it. He had me and Kate create him a beard out of a paper plate and was going around pretending to be Santa Claus. It was awesome to see him make Rosie very happy. Especially because Rosie dropped the news on us that David proposed to her the weekend before we came! Everyone was very happy for Rosie and it was awesome to see the two of them getting into the Holiday Spirit.

Another fond memory I have from this semester involved a different holiday, Halloween. Aside from Judy who deems Halloween solely a kids holiday, it was awesome to see how much the rest of them got into the Halloween Spirit. Nicky, I think was the most excited as her mom made her an adorable homemade cheerleading outfit. She was showing off her dancing skills to us before she left for the Halloween dance.

The biggest challenge I’d say we struggled with this semester was trying to find activities or games that kept everyone actively involved. As I said earlier, the ability level varied in the house which made some activities too difficult for some or too easy for others. The hardest was finding a balance between something Judy would want to do and something Nicky could do. I think Kate did a great job at having many options for us at the ready so if someone wasn’t liking what we were currently doing, typically Judy, we could offer her something else to do. Often this would be creating a necklace or coloring.

The only times I’d ever felt uncomfortable at Spruce Hills was when sometimes negative topics come up. For example, Rosie once began talking about the death of her father which triggered Judy to think about her parents dying. Judy began talking into some depth about death and other things surrounding this. I think it was important to let them vent about what they were feeling but not letting them get too caught up in the negative thoughts. So we discussed it for a little while and then directed the conversation differently.

I thought we had a lot of good activities this semester. One of my favorites was the decorating of the frames we did the last week at Boltwood. One thing everyone in the group seems to enjoy is painting which made this activity perfect. We took a picture the week before with everyone all dressed up on Rosie’s birthday before they went to the dance and it came out adorable! I think it’s a sweet idea because not only is it fun for them to make themselves but they can be reminded of the fun we had over winter break and before we see them again next semester. Another activity that we did often was Bingo. This is something Judy particularly loves. And while Nicky finds it hard to keep up she always had someone by her side to help out. Similarly, everyone loved playing the dice game. It always seemed to give Judy a confidence boost and make her day whenever she won one of these two games. She loved played them with us.

I think Spruce Hill was very lucky this semester because not only were the participants awesome and always maintained a positive attitude, so were the volunteers. Everyone got along very well and was always making jokes and having fun. I think this was half the reason I loved going so much because everyone was so laid back and just wanted to make every week as fun as possible for the participants. Something I really loved which Kate always initiated was rose and thorns we would play in the car every time. This was a fun way to reflect on the week and if you were in a bad mood talk about what that week might of put you in that bad mood or if you have some good news to share it with everyone. It was a fun way to start every car ride and get everyone talking about what’s going on in their lives.

One suggestion I can think of for Boltwood would be making a presentation of every site like a small video or something that depicts what goes on at each place. I think this would be useful when people apply to the program so they get a better idea of what exactly they are going

to be doing and if they would be a good fit. Not only that but it’s a good way to show everyone what other people at Boltwood are doing. Personally, I am very curious about what the other sites look like and I would love to see all the fun stuff everyone is doing with their participants. It could also be a good way to bring the best ideas from all the different sites together. Maybe one semester they could find one or more people from each site willing to make this as a final project and offer them an extra credit or two. 

Developmental Biology Assignment 5

Submitted by hamacdonald on Mon, 12/11/2017 - 16:38

The University is proud to release to the public the ground- breaking findings presented

in the paper, “Target Genes of the MADS Transcription Factor SEPALLATA3: Integration of Developmental and Hormonal Pathways in the Arabidopsis Flower”. The paper explores development in Arabidopsis and the importance of the SEPALLATA3 (SEP3) protein in the regulatory transcriptional network that controls the development of the floral organs.

The development of plants typically occurs post embryonically and are constantly being affected by their environments. In order for plants organs to form and regenerate materials throughout its life span it must have stem cells at the ready. These stem cells exist in the shoot apical meristem (SAM) and these are the areas in which plants create new floral organs. The type of organ produced depends on where the plant is developmentally. The MAD-box genes family have proven to be critical in floral organ development. And although there is still much research to be done regarding all of the transcription factors and the different ways in which plants develop, this paper specifically focuses on SEP3.

The researches found SEP3 is critical in floral development because the sep1, sep2, and sep3 mutants all did not have petals, stamens, and carpels. Also they discovered it is expressed throughout floral development. This is because in order for leaves to become floral organs is needs SEP3. With the help of ChIP followed by ChIP- SEQ, that allows the developmental biologist to see the varying protein interactions with the DNA, they could compare the targets of SEP3 wildtypes and mutants. They found SEP3 binds to many different spots, in the thousands, site in the genome. Based on the ChIP-SEQ data they found that there are many links between SEP3 and auxin signaling pathways. The combination of SEP3 and auxin proved to be responsible for organ growth as mutants without these two create phenotypes with impaired organ development.

This paper helped to piece together the puzzle about how plants use floral homeotic genes to go through critical developmental switches that are responsible for organ identity. Although much of this process is still unknown the breakthroughs thanks to ChIP and ChIP- SEQ are huge advances in the developmental biology field. 

Elevator Speech

Submitted by hamacdonald on Fri, 12/08/2017 - 12:53


In our experiment we tested caffeine amount on planarian regeneration. In order to have just caffeine and water without any other possible ingredients we ordered Water Joe. All of the nine planarians were measured, cut in a half, and measured again. We had a control group of planarians that had no caffeine and were placed in Nestle water. The moderate amount of caffeine had 10 mL of Water Joe and 10 mL of Nestle. The high amount of caffeine had 20 mL of Water Joe and no Nestle. We found the control group grew the most, then the moderate amount, and the high amount of caffeine killed all three planarians. These results make sense as these are freshwater planarians who likely do not come in contact with caffeine and their bodies did not know how to survive in large amounts of it.

Methods for Poster

Submitted by hamacdonald on Thu, 12/07/2017 - 18:54

This experiment was performed in Morrill 3 room 301 starting on November 15th. Three planarians were used as the control group with no caffeine, three were used as the moderate caffeine level, and three more planarians were used to test high caffeine levels. Aside from the varying amount of caffeine the same procedure was followed for all nine planarians. The experiment was done on a labeled sheet as seen in Figure 1. On Day 1, each planarian was placed in a small clear condiment cups labeled with the number of planarian 1-3 for the varying conditions. For the control group, 20 mL of Nestle water was used per condiment cup. The moderate level of caffeine was 10 mL of Nestle water and 10 mL of Water Joe. The high level of caffeine was 20 mL of Water Joe per cup. The pipet was used to transfer the planarian from the condiment cup to the large petri dish where each was measured, cut in half using a blade, and then measured again. The measuring went on for 16 days and all lengths were recorded in centimeters.


Submitted by hamacdonald on Wed, 12/06/2017 - 15:44

This was our last week this semester at Spruce Hills. The house was in full holiday spirit. Decorations were up including a tree. David, Rosie’s now fiancé, was visiting. Rosie had some exciting news for us, David proposed to her this Saturday and now they are engaged. She seemed very happy about this and it was exciting to see the two of them so happy. However, David brings a high energy that we are not used to at the Spruce Hills house. He was very demanding and over excited which bothered Judy at times when he was a little loud. All in all her worked well with the group.

            Everyone in the group seemed to love the frames we brought them to decorate and put in the pictures we took the week prior. After this we went on to decorate Santa hats and paper plate wreaths. David got really into the Santa hat thing and had me make him a beard out of a paper plate. He had a lot of fun pretending to be Santa Claus. We ended this week with snacks and bingo. It was hard to tell the girls we weren’t going to be back until the next semester but they seemed to understand. 

Boltwood Reflection

Submitted by hamacdonald on Fri, 12/01/2017 - 12:41

This week at Boltwood was Rosie’s birthday. It was awesome to walk in and see her in her birthday crown and all dressed up. She seemed very excited for the dance they were all going to on her birthday night. Since there was another dance we just were with Judy. We asked her what she wanted to do and she wanted to play a game based off her favorite game show, “Chain Reaction”. We played this for awhile she seemed to really enjoy explaining her game to us and playing it. After this we played the dice game, another thing she really loves. We also took a picture this week so next week, our last week, we can decorate frames. Judy did seem a little upset when Kate reminded her next week was our last week. It makes you realize how much they value us coming and how it brightens up there week to switch up the normal nightly activity.

Research Email

Submitted by hamacdonald on Fri, 12/01/2017 - 12:36

Hello Sam Zeff,

  My name is Hailey MacDonald and I am a senior Biology major here at Umass. I am emailing you in regards to checking the availability in Dr. Sirard's Physical Activity and Health Lab. I met with the undergraduate research advising on campus and this lab seems like a great fit for me. I intend to apply to a PA program post graduation. Working in this lab would be a great opportunity for me. I worked in The Wyss lab, one of the Harvard Medical School labs, this summer and gained a lot of insight in working in a research lab. However, I would like to lean more towards working hands on with people to translate more to the medical field. I have a lot of child care experience and have worked as a nanny so I think I would be great at working with the adolescent participants in his research. Look forward to hearing back from you! Thank you for your time.
 Regards, Hailey

Life After Biology - "Plan B"

Submitted by hamacdonald on Fri, 12/01/2017 - 12:01

It is important in life to have back up plans incase our “Plan A” does not work out the way we expected. My career plan B would be working as a pharmaceutical sales rep. It does not really relate much to my main career goal of becoming a Physician’s assistant, but is something I have always had an interest in. It would be a way to connect the sciences and sales which is something I think I would be good at. My  degree In biology would give me a leg up in trying to per sue this career goal. Having worked as a waitress for many years, I have developed the communication skills to serve the guests and always try my best to have them leaving satisfied. My time spent working as a nanny has also made me value punctuality and being early when making arrangements that people rely on you for with something as important as their children. For these reasons, I think working as a pharmaceutical sales rep could be a feasible back up plan for my career.


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