Blog Series: UA Students Studying, Researching Abroad

Aug. 11, 2014

Under its strategic academic and business plan, "Never Settle," the University of Arizona has underscored its commitment to student engagement by ensuring 100 percent of students have the opportunity to be involved in some form of practical, engaged activity relevant to their future careers.

One of the students who has embraced that concept is UA undergraduate Jordan Richard Brock, who spent his summer in Turkey as part of Biomedical Research Abroad: Vistas Open!, a summer research program that grew out of the UA's Undergraduate Biology Research Program. Since the program was founded in 1992, more than 220 undergraduates have worked in laboratories located in dozens of countries outside of the U.S.

While abroad, Brock shared some thoughts about his experience.

This is the first in a five-part Q-and-A series highlighting the UA's efforts to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the STEM fields, and the work of students like Brock.

Q: What is your current research?

A: I am working in Turkey studying the emerging biofuel crop, Camelina sativa. I am here to present my research at a Turkish Biology Congress, but also to make new collections of wild Camelina species from across Turkey. In previous years, I have traveled to Turkey, Georgia and Armenia to collect wild populations of various Camelina species.

Q: Why is this particular area of research so important?

A: I have been doing molecular phylogenetics in my laboratory at the University of Arizona to understand the evolutionary history of this genus. Because Camelina sativa is an emerging biofuel crop, we are interested in learning about the other species in the genus and how they may be used to further improve Camelina sativa.

Q: Why do you have a specific interest in Camelina sativa, and how has your research supported your studies?

A: I have an academic interest in studying Camelina because my project has allowed me not only to use the knowledge I have learned from my courses but also to build upon it. Lectures and laboratory experience are perfect complements to each other, and without practicing what you learn, eventually you will forget. My professional interest in my research is quite direct; the research I am doing as an undergraduate will help me excel in my future studies. I have been able to learn a variety of valuable laboratory skills but also skills such as analyzing data and critical thinking.

Q: Considering your work abroad, and your time at the UA, how do you feel you are becoming prepared for your future career? 

A: My experience at the University of Arizona has prepared me very well for my international research. Classes such as plant systematics have been extremely helpful in developing my plant identification skills as well as teaching how to properly collect specimens. Furthermore, my principal investigator, Mark Beilstein, is an exceptional teacher, role model and friend; he always leads me in the right direction while giving me confidence to solve problems on my own. In my previous research trips abroad, I was accompanied by my principal investigator, but now I feel comfortable traveling and researching on my own.

Q: What are your long-term plans? 

A: After I graduate I hope to pursue my Ph.D. in plant sciences or plant biology. My ultimate goal is to improve plant productivity and provide plant-based solutions to the world's decreasing arable land and water.

Read about other UA students conducting research abroad:

Photos courtesy of A. Dönmez and Zübeyde Uğurlu