Major: Biology Minors: Chemistry and Creative Writing Year: Rising fourth year
At Case Western Reserve University, students are encouraged to use their studies to pursue their passions. For Aubrey Mayer, that means channeling her love of science and animals to help preserve the environment and protect the 16,000+ species facing extinction.
Since her early days of weekend trips to the university’s labs with her mother, a researcher at the School of Medicine, Mayer aspired to attend CWRU and continue the family tradition of research on campus. Now a fourth-year biology major with a double minor in chemistry and creative writing, Mayer uses her research to understand and work to conserve the diversity and complexity of life on our planet.
“Studying biology and genetics reminds me every day how interconnected life on Earth is,” she said.
Working in Mitchell Drumm’s lab in the Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences, Mayer’s research has included studying rare genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis, glycogen storage disease 1a and San Filippo Syndrome. Her research team works with cell culture to understand the various causes of genetic mutations and develop treatments for patients.
Mayer put her efforts into practice last summer as part of a larger research project, volunteering at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to help collect behavioral data on black rhinoceros. She and her team explored how the animals used their habitat space, seeking to identify potential benefits of habitat rotation in larger zoo animals.
This summer, she worked as a research fellow with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance in a stem cell laboratory within their conservation genetics department, supporting part of the larger North White Rhino Project, a last-hope, cross-disciplinary attempt to save the Northern White Rhinoceros from extinction. Specifically, Mayer explores the effects of using different substrate proteins on the pluripotency of stem cells derived from the animal’s skin samples.
“Doing this research this summer was a dream come true,” Mayer said. “I grew up hearing about the conservation research that happened at the San Diego Zoo, and getting to contribute to it was an incredible opportunity that has strengthened my commitment to going into the conservation genetics field after undergrad.”
Once Mayer graduates, she plans to pursue a PhD in genetics with a focus on evolution and conservation to prevent the loss and degradation of habitats. Until then, she can be found around campus shooting bows with the CWRU Archery Club as vice president or pursuing writing, another passion of hers.