Dr. Kara Powder

Biological Sciences
College of Science

Area of Research:
Craniofacial development and evolution

055A Life Science Facility
Dr. Kara Powder

Proposed role for the Scholar as an undergraduate researcher in the Mentor's lab.
All undergraduates within the Powder lab are encouraged to have independent research projects; this would be an absolute requirement for the Beckman Scholar. At the onset of the project, I would discuss potential projects and techniques (including PCR, quantitative trait loci mapping, geometric morphometric shape analyses, in situ hybridization, embryonic injections, and CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing) with the Scholar and allow them to choose a project they are most interested in. All projects within the lab are related, which allows collaboration with other lab members. However, my mentoring philosophy is that when a mentee (from postdoc to undergraduate) truly takes ownership of a project and feels they are the expert in the lab on that particular question, it increases intellectual curiosity, promotes problem solving, and enables the mentee to move more quickly to being a professional and a colleague. This certainly was the case for my personal experience, and I believe having independence as an undergraduate was critical to my decision to attend graduate school and become an academic. Therefore, I will highly encourage the Scholar to take a leadership role in the lab, such as training a team of undergraduates on their particular project and related projects. After the scholarship period, I would expect the Scholar to continue the project in my lab, providing research supplies from my other support.

Frequency and nature of the planned interactions between the Scholar and Mentor.
The Beckman Scholar will receive training from me, the Pl, rather than from a graduate student. This extended (and informal) interaction with the Scholar is an important aspect of my mentoring. We will discuss concepts, experimental design and execution, and hypothesis formulation. These interactions will also allow me to assess intellectual progress and get to know the Scholar as a person in addition to a mentee. I would expect the Scholar to participate in 1 hr weekly all-lab meetings, which include discussion of data and research articles; I would ask the Scholar to lead discussion of articles. In addition, I will have individual, 30-min. meetings every 1-2 weeks with the Scholar to discuss research progress, career trajectories, scholarship/grant opportunities, and professional development.

Specific plans the Mentor will employ.
Discussions about career aspirations will use the Individual Development Plan (IDP) tool from ScienceCareers as a starting point, which identifies areas of science that best fit with the Scholar's aspirations, strengths, and personal values. Attendance in workshops (from pedagogy to effective communication) was particularly transformative to me as a graduate student and postdoc. Using the IDP and the GRAD360 program at Clemson as a framework, the Scholar and myself will work together to determine appropriate skills to further develop, such as communication, leadership styles, reading scientific literature, time management, and mentoring. I will work with the Scholar one-on-one or find them the best resource (e.g GRAD360 or MOOG online workshops) to strengthen key transferable skills. I will encourage the Scholar to present every year, alternating between Clemson internal events and regional/national conferences. I believe these opportunities are critical for a Scholar to practice communication skills, network, and gain additional perspectives on the research project. My current students presented at a Clemson poster session (2 students, Apr 2018) and at a regional meeting of the Society for Developmental Biology (4 students, May 2018, including an awarded poster).

Active undergraduate researchers in Mentor's lab. 8

Total number of UGRS mentored to date: 10

The Powder lab works at the intersection of developmental biology, genetics, and evolutionary biology. Mainly focusing on craniofacial development, we investigate how changes in genes and development produce variation, whether diseases in humans or the incredible variation of animals found in nature. Our research animals are both zebrafish and cichlid fishes of the East African Rift Lakes, which have evolved an incredible range of facial shapes depending on feeding mechanisms. By using a combination of genomics, embryonic manipulations, and genetic editing via the CRISPR/cas9 system, our goal is to understand the molecular control of normal and clinical facial variation.