Jessica Castillo started in the MVZ in the fall of 2005 during her 2rd year, and continues today in her 5th year. Like many undergraduates, she learned about the MVZ through the Natural History of Vertebrates Class (IB 104). She worked directly with the collections as a Curatorial Assistant for the Herp collection in the Fall of 2005 through Spring of 2007, has been a field assistant on the Grinnell Project, has worked in the Prep Lab, and now works with the eggs and nest collection. In the summer of 2007, she got to travel to Peru as part of a National Science Foundation REU grant. She is also now working on a senior thesis with the help of several professors and a museum scientist.
“While the knowledge and experience I have gained in the MVZ will help me throughout my pursuit of a career in biology, undoubtedly the greatest part of working in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology is the interactions I am able to have with so many amazing and inspiring people. One of my first days in the museum my boss, Dr. Chris Conroy, told me he wanted me to put away a jar of salamanders of the species Pseudoeurycea papenfussi. He then asked me if I would like to meet Ted Papenfuss, the man the salamanders were named for. I was wide eyed at the suggestion and wasn’t sure what exactly he meant. Then Chris and I walked down the hall and I was introduced and now we chat in the Herp lab or the halls of the MVZ almost every day. I am no longer afraid to approach such respected people because in the MVZ I am not treated as just another undergrad assistant, but rather I am treated just like anyone else in the museum regardless of degrees or number of publications. Additionally, the experience interacting with such big names and knowledgeable people such as Jim Patton and Dave Wake, and being treated with respect, has given me the confidence to approach my professors and to express my opinions. Before working in the MVZ I was timid and did not readily talk to professors after class or in office hours. Now I talk to professors as much as possible because I know what a great resource they are and they really are there to help me in my academic career. But the MVZ is also more than just academics. The MVZ is more than just a museum. It is a community and a great opportunity.”