UT Tyler

Graduate Student Alumni Spotlight

Biology MS

Chissa RivaldiStudent Name: Chissa-Louise Rivaldi

Program: Master's in Biology

Graduated: 2015

Employer: University of Notre Dame

Position: PhD Student (Biology)

What attracted you to this field?

I started studying science about ten years ago and my interests have shifted several times since then. Now I study insects that are vectors for pathogens that affect humans and primates from a computational perspective. The field and my research are a perfect fit for me because the speed at which they advance requires me to tackle a new subject almost daily.

Why did you choose UT Tyler?

I conducted my master's research in Dr. Blake Bextine's lab. I contacted him directly because his research interests matched mine. It was fortunate that he had an opening in his lab! Once I visited the campus, I could see that the facilities available to the biology department were ideal for my research.

What do you like most about UT Tyler?

The intimacy of the department. I got my bachelor's degree from a large university and had a somewhat isolated experience. The great thing about a small and specialized faculty is that you often have to consider their perspective before seeking or applying their advice to your current work, which results in a broader educational experience than is available in a large school. That sounds counter-intuitive, but it's absurdly easy to disappear in a large department with 200 graduate students.

What are your career aspirations?

I absolutely want to continue research and eventually run my own lab. I began teaching at UT Tyler and love it, so becoming a professor at a research campus seems like the obvious path at this point (although it is far from being the only one).

What is your work experience?

I worked in an ecology lab for a few years at my undergraduate institution before I started graduate school and believe the experience helped facilitate my research. It was a different type of research than what I took on in Tyler, but the understanding of the scientific method and the progression of a research project are ubiquitous.

Do you have any advice to pass along to other students interested in this program?

Two years goes by so quickly!! I felt like I'd barely begun my research when it was already time to start writing my thesis. It helps immensely if you are working with an adviser (and committee) that is a good fit for your own style of learning. If you need a lot of guidance, make sure your adviser is capable of providing that. Alternatively, if you are very independent having someone over your shoulder the whole time can hinder your progress. This is important for both students and PIs!

Find out more about our MS in Biology

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