UNCP biology student excels in summer research

Martina Vanetten presents during an undergraduate research symposium at the STEM Summer Immersion Program at East Carolina University

UNC Pembroke molecular biology student Martina Vanetten spent her summer as a member of the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation STEM Summer Immersion Program at East Carolina University.

The selective program pairs a small cohort of undergraduate students across the UNC System with faculty mentors engaged in research through ECU’s College of Allied Health Sciences. 

A graduate of Lumberton High School and a first-generation college student, Vanetten was engaged in research work and peer collaboration, culminating in an undergraduate research symposium presentation. Students in this competitive nine-week internship program were fully funded through the foundation and worked with their mentors on topics ranging from preventing decay in fruit to heat temperature difference in grass versus concrete and spider toxins.

Research mentors and ECU professors Dr. Rebecca Asch and Drs. Kat Dale assisted Vanetten. She investigated, mapped and presented new information about deep-water sablefish feeding regions in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. Sablefish are valued as a food source which can grow up to three feet in length. Vanetten’s work looked at sources of food found in the waters of the Pacific Northwest, how this has been affected by climate change as the seas warm and what this means for the fish population's health. 

For this project, she learned to write her computer programming code to produce the specialized mapping, something she knew nothing about when she began the program. “I came out of this experience with a new set of coding skills that I’m hoping to integrate and use for my future career,” she notes. Inspired by this success, she is adding a computer science minor after her positive experience using code to design her research presentation. She credits her time at UNCP for preparing her for the intense summer session. “Something I enjoy most about UNCP is the close-knit community and the small class sizes,” Vanetten shares. “I feel like it’s best for me when I can have closer and personal connections with my professors.”

Back on campus, as she begins her junior year, Vanetten reflects on a summer well spent. “What I got out of my internship experience is that not only am I capable of going through the process of an internship, but that I walked out having a refreshed feeling of excitement when it comes to pursuing a career within my major.”