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CBSelfie with Drew Zasada

This undergraduate took full advantage of research opportunities while in CBS.

Drew Zasada


Your name: Drew Zasada

Your year: Senior

Your major: Biochemistry


What research have you been involved in on campus?
I started volunteering in the Aihara lab, a Biochemistry lab, the spring of my sophomore year. After that first semester where I learned the ins and outs of the lab, I started working on my own project through directed research. Since then, I have had semester upon semester of directed research, which is just now culminating in my honors thesis.

Why did you want to participate in that research?
One of the reasons I was so excited to become a CBS student was because of all the opportunities to do research. For me, research was a way to actually do what I was learning in class. I not only reinforced all of the biochemistry from class, but I found ways to apply it. Also, research was a way to be creative through science. A lot of the problems I encountered throughout the my time in the lab required creative problem-solving to fix, a skill I didn't get to use a lot in coursework.

What was the most challenging thing you learned while working in the lab?
Research comes with so many setbacks. There is always refinement to be done. However, those setbacks and mistakes are what make you learn and become a better critical thinker. People in lab courses can often get caught up in just going through the motions of a protocol without thinking about the processes occurring in the microfuge tube. By working on my own project, I was forced to critically think about each step of the experiment. Why am I adding this reagent? What will happen if I do this step earlier? Things like that made me breakdown my research and learn how to refocus and strategize.

What is your favorite CBS memory?
I have so many great memories from CBS, mostly in part to all of the great opportunities the college has offered me. However, my favorite is being an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for the Department of Biology Teaching and Learning. I love being able to share my excitement for Biology with other students and have had many interesting moments throughout the semesters as a TA. If you ever have the opportunity to teach or TA, I highly recommend it!

If you had one piece of advice to your first-year self in CBS, what would it be?
Become familiar with Google Calendar, it will be your best friend. But actually, I would tell myself to explore more courses. The U of M has so many interesting classes (yes, even outside of the sciences) and I would tell myself to look for more unique courses. For example, last year I took an English course about Science Fiction and Fantasy and absolutely loved it. I wish I took time to investigate the course catalog and find more classes like that. They really help balance out a science heavy course load and give you new perspectives.