Make an Impact Through Undergraduate Research Vancouver Island University


After graduating with a Bachelor of Science major in Biology last April, Marissa Wright-LaGreca immediately began working in the Seashell Research Center.

She is researching the first 24 hours of shell development in Pacific oyster larvae, hoping to find out how growth is affected by changing seawater conditions such as ocean acidification. . The results of his project could help hatcheries select oysters that are more resistant to harsher ocean conditions.

One of the career options Marissa is considering is working in shellfish research due to her economic and cultural importance to British Columbia and the diversity of her work. Between 2020 and 2021, Marissa received the Attariwala Science Award, a Mitacs Training Award, a VIU Reach Award and two Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) from the National Science and Engineering Research Council. These scholarships helped pay for his tuition and research projects. The VIU Reach Award helped her attend and present her research at the National Shellfish Association (NSA) conference.

“During my undergraduate degree, I found it extremely beneficial to contact professors and get involved in student research,” she says. “The great part of VIU is that it is small enough that you can have direct contact with the professors and large enough that there are plenty of opportunities available. With the different funding opportunities available for undergraduates, I think it pays to participate in scientific research, even if you don’t necessarily want to pursue scientific research as a long-term career.

Shellfish research was not on Marissa’s radar before VIU, and she’s surprised how much she enjoys it.

“At the same time, I have also discovered areas of research that do not interest me. I think an undergraduate degree is all about exploring different areas and finding your niche and, if you’re in the sciences, research is a great way to do that, ”she says. “Thanks to my experiences at VIU, I feel better prepared to undertake higher education or enter the workforce. Graduate schools and employers are looking for undergraduate students with research experience.

Why did you choose VIU?

I chose VIU because of its location, small size, and low tuition fees compared to other universities.

Are there any highlights you can share from your stay here?

My strengths at VIU include being the first peer learning manager for the organic chemistry course at VIU, taking birding classes at VIU (so much fun, I highly recommend it) and my work at the Center for Shellfish Research.

What are your hobbies?

Hobby? I forgot what the word means … just kidding. Although my hobbies are usually suspended during the school year, I enjoy spending my free time with my friends and family. Plus, having grown up in the colder parts of northern Alberta, I love being outdoors and enjoying the climate of British Columbia!

What did you like about working in the lab this summer?

I enjoyed my flexible schedule and the mix of work tasks that included lab, computer and field work. Plus, I loved conducting my first larger-scale hatchery experience at the Deep Bay Marine Station facility, which involved raising 16 families of Pacific oysters.

What do you want to do for a career?

One of the careers I envision is a career in scientific research, something that applies directly to my environment. I think this is particularly evident in the scientific field of shellfish aquaculture, because it has both economic and cultural importance in British Columbia. One of my favorite aspects of aquaculture research so far is the variety of types of work you can do. Any day, you can work in the lab, on a computer, outdoors, or in a hatchery. I hope that my future long term career will have this same type of diversity because it remains different and interesting every day.

Give us three random facts about yourself.

  1. During the summer I hiked the West Coast Trail with my dad and brother.
  2. I am a distant relative of astronaut Chris Hadfield.
  3. My last name, LaGreca, translates to “Greek” in Italian.

What’s the next step for you?

In 2022 I am pursuing a Masters in Biology so I have also been busy preparing for this. My masters will be done remotely, with most of my research being conducted at VIU. My Masters will involve aquaculture research with an emphasis on combining and expanding the scientific techniques that I have learned so far during my undergraduate and research assistant.


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