Student Profile: Sara Roozbehi

ECU undergraduate researcher Sara Roozbehi is studying the role microbes play in interactions between crabs and parasites.

Major: Biology

Mentor: Dr. Erin Field

Department: Department of Biology

Project Title: “Microbial Influence on Zombie Crab Parasitism”

Sara’s research deals with coastal mud crabs that have been infected by an invasive parasite. Ultimately, when the crab is infected with this parasite it leaves the crabs unable to sexually reproduce and, in turn, the crab reproduces the parasite. Microbes play a role in the interactions of these organisms and we want to determine whether or not these microbes are aiding or hindering infection.

How did you get involved in undergraduate research?

I was sitting in class one day when a classmate said her lab was looking for volunteers on a project. I offered to help and through this I met a Ph.D. student who told me about her lab and was nice enough to give me a tour. I reached out to Dr. Field and have been a part of the lab ever since. 

Why did you choose your research topic?

This is an important topic as it is the first microbial interaction analysis in a host-parasite relationship documented between mud crabs and parasites. North Carolina observes infection rates as high as 80 percent. This region is classified as the “crab-losing” region and is important to study.

What’s been your favorite part of conducting undergraduate research?

My favorite part is learning. I learn so much every day in the lab, more than I could have ever learned in a classroom. I am trained and constantly learning from my prestigious lab mates and my research advisor, whom I could not be more grateful for.

What challenges have you faced while conducting undergraduate research?

Research is tough, but beautiful. You are faced with many setbacks but you’re always moving forward. I used to have so much trouble running polymerase chain reactions. I had many unsuccessful runs, but now I love running PCR. In fact, I look forward to it.

Why is your research important for the general public?

Understanding this interaction could aid us in hypothesizing which crab species would be more susceptible along with understanding overall microbe interactions between other marine organisms. We would also be able to help the crabs by controlling their microbial communities.

What’s your ultimate goal or accomplishment that you hope your research will help you achieve?

The ultimate goal of this research is to see how microbes play a role in the interactions of these organisms and whether or not microbes aid or hinder the parasite from infecting the crabs. 

Do you have any advice for other students interested in conducting undergraduate research?

Do it! Look into different labs and mentors and see which ones you are interested in. A great start to looking into different labs is through Whatsup Bio, an event available here at ECU. You could not possibly regret it joining a lab. Research is a great way to actively learn and is a great way to meet and work with brilliant minds along the way.