Chemical Engineering Research Story: Anya McDaniel


Anya McDaniel

Chemical Engineering

What research did you complete and who did you complete it with?

I have been a part of Dr. Mistriotis’ research group for three years now. I joined
the spring of my freshman year. My research focuses on the impact of age and
senescence on cellular migration through confined and unconfined channels in a
3D environment.

There seem to be a variety of ways to seek and secure research positions. How did you find this opportunity? Are there resources you found particularly helpful?

 I found this opportunity when Dr. Mistriotis came and presented his research to
my Intro to Chemical Engineering class. I emailed him after the class asking if I
could join his research group, and he immediately welcomed me and paired me
up with a graduate student. In this sense, I would say attending your freshman
engineering orientation courses is helpful because you never know who is
presenting and what might catch your eye.

Tell us about your research experience. What types of tasks and projects did you engage in? Was there a particular part of the experience you learned the most from?

 For the first year and a half, I primarily assisted a graduate student on her project.
This included working on analysis for her experiments and doing the benchwork
to prepare for the experiments. During this time, she taught me everything there
is to know about analyzing data, preparing devices for experiments, and cell
culturing. Eventually, I decided to apply for the University Research Fellowship
(URF) with my own project. I was fortunate enough to be chosen, and since then I
have been solely working on my own project from start to finish. I would say I
learned from this experience the most because I carry out every step of the
process from preparing the experiments all the way to analyzing the data and
forming conclusions.

In what ways did this research experience help you prepare for your next steps after Auburn?

 I plan on attending medical school following graduation, so being comfortable in a
lab setting and even being comfortable with how research is done will be a huge
advantage. Medical schools require/expect their students to engage in research,
so learning all the basics of the process now will give me a head start in the

In what ways did your coursework or other experiences at Auburn prepare you for your research? Are there specific topics or skills you learned from classes that you put into practice?

Honestly, since I am in a biomedical/cellular engineering laboratory, the chemical
engineering curriculum did not assist my research. However, the problem-solving
mindset that the chemical engineering curriculum instills in me has been a huge
advantage when I approach issues with my experiments. There was no
coursework I learned in the classroom that I could apply to my research. All of
what I know concerning cellular migration and senescence, I learned in the

Do you have any advice for other students looking for research experience like yours?

 I would tell them not to be afraid to try it. Most professors are extremely
accommodating and understand that you are trying to figure out your interests.
Try it for a week or try it for three years; either way the experience will show you
a lot about what you love and the environment you want to be in following