Kathryn Brinegar

I’m studying how marsh-dependent fish interact with their environment

Student, Biology

Tell us a little about yourself and your research project.

Hey, my name is Kathryn Brinegar (pronounced like vinegar). I am a biology student in the departmental honors program working with Dr. Paola López-Duarte. I’m studying how marsh-dependent fish interact with their environment. Specifically, I am studying transient and resident adult and juvenile fish through their dietary and habitat use patterns via the integration of two biomarkers: stable isotope data (C, N, S), and otolith (fish ear bone) microchemistry. I’ve been involved in this project since fall 2020 and will be graduating in May 2023. If you want to hear more about my research, please feel free to email me at kbrineg2@uncc.edu. Every scientist I have met, myself included, loves talking about their research!

How did you first find out about undergraduate research opportunities at UNC Charlotte?

I first heard about undergraduate research opportunities through the Office of Undergraduate Research here on campus. I applied for and received a paid position over the summer of 2020, and I’ve been involved in research since then.

How has your research experience prepared you for your next goals or career?

My research experience has prepared me for my future goal of becoming an ecological researcher (and a graduate student before then). A few of the skills I’ve been able to build are: critical thinking skills, performing data collection and analysis, preparing fellowship/grant applications, and the communication of science.

What advice would you give students who are interested in pursuing undergraduate research and what would you say to a student who says, “research is not for me”?

For students interested in research: Go for it! I want you to know that these positions do not need experience and these faculty are looking for students to mentor. There are plenty of ways to get involved either through paid positions, research for credit, or volunteering. The only way to find out if you do or do not enjoy research is to try it-and really give it your all. To those that say research is “not for them:” If you think research is not for you because you feel unqualified for any reason, whether it be how you look or who you are, you’re wrong. Research is for anyone and everyone, including you. While not everyone that attempts research will continue down that path, I do think it’s important to explore the possibility as the world will always need curious individuals to answer life’s questions.

What is one thing that you learned about yourself from this research experience?

One thing that I have learned from my research experience is that it is normal and okay to not know things. It’s easy to feel inferior when there is so much to learn, but I urge you to fight that feeling. Rather than be upset, take these opportunities to learn more whether it is from experts in the field or your own research.