Chaya B Gordon

Chaya is the second place winner of the Virtual Symposium 2021

Can you please provide a brief summary of your research?

My research focuses on epigenetic plasticity in A. burtoni, an African cichlid fish that can change its coloration both rapidly and over longer periods of time. Their capacity to do so relies heavily on environmental variables, including social interactions. They have a social hierarchy in which males can become dominant or subordinate, which impacts their behavior and coloration. This model system allows me to study how changes in coloration and patterning play a role in an animal’s behavior and the behavior of those around them.

To put it simply, I study how fish change their coloration based on where they fall in their social circle and how their behavior corresponds with these changes.

When did you first become interested, and what inspired you to become interested, in your field?

I have always loved marine biology and am an avid deep-sea documentary watcher, so working with fish made sense to me. During my free time, I enjoy drawing, painting, and being creative so studying coloration interested my visual side. Once I joined the Alvarado lab, I really enjoyed the lab environment which inspired me to stay and continue with my research. I am so lucky to be part of an amazing team.

What was your first research experience?

My first research experience was during my summer internship with Healthy CUNY at the CUNY School of Public Health where I worked on advocating for healthier drink options to be served on CUNY campuses.  I had a lot of fun visiting different CUNY campuses and getting to connect with students I otherwise would have never met.

What is the most important lesson you have learned in your studies and research?

Of all the skills a researcher could have, I think communication is the most important. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your work is if you can’t properly explain it so others can understand. In addition, working in a lab usually means working with other people, so effective communication is paramount.

Is there a mentor or professor who has particularly inspired and helped you?

In general, I have been most inspired by my peers. At first glance, you won’t notice the amazing accomplishments they have under their belts given their humility and kindness. They work so hard and are mature beyond their years.

However, the true reason why I have accomplished anything is life is thanks to my family, I am so grateful for them. 

What are your future plans?

I look forward to attending either an MD/Ph.D. or MD program and going on to work in healthcare, whether that be one-on-one with patients or doing clinical research. Either way, I look forward to contributing to the scientific community to better the world.

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