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Meet Our Students - Alex Bajcz

Alex BajczWhat year and semester did you begin EES graduate studies?
Fall 2012

What degree are you pursuing?
Ph.D.

Who is your academic advisor?
Dr. Frank Drummond

What prior degrees do you have?
B.S. in Environment from University of Michigan, M.S. in Terrestrial Ecosystems from University of Michigan

Why did you choose to attend grad school at UMaine? Why did you choose EES?
I wish to study fitness and reproductive ecology in fruiting plants, and it worked out that I was able to find an advisor interested in these issues here as well. I chose EES because I would consider myself an “Ecologist” first and foremost and so I want my top degree to be one called “Ecology.” Plus, I want to be an ecology professor at some future point, so I felt like having a Ph.D would be vital.

Briefly describe the research project you are working on.
I basically do “reproductive accounting” in Maine’s wild blueberry. I am trying to figure out how and why blueberry plants “decide” on a level of reproductive effort, and what the consequences of that decision is for blueberry growers. It’s very delicious research! Right now, I’m investigating the drivers and consequences of varying floral densities–through flower removal, I’m trying to tease apart the various factors that determine fruit set, which is very variable and generally low. If I can understand what causes mediocre fruit set, especially in individuals that produce many flowers, we may be able to think up some new management techniques that can vastly increase the production efficiency of the crop.

What has been your favorite class at UMaine so far? If you are new to UMaine, what classes are you most looking forward to taking at UMaine?
My favorite two classes so far have actually been stats courses I took in other departments: Spatial Analysis (SIE) and Biological Modeling and Simulations (MATH). I went into both of those courses with only a vague understanding of both disciplines, but I walked out with confidence that I could not only use those skills in my research but even some day produce publishable results with them.

What has been your most rewarding research experience and why? If you are new to UMaine, what are your research goals?
I’m sure this is virtually universal, but there are few greater feelings than having all your hard work for the better part of a year culminate in a statistical test that produces a significant result. Being able to walk around in a blueberry field during harvest time and stop and eat as many as you want comes pretty close though!

What advice do you have for prospective graduate students?
Make sure you (can) establish a good working relationship with your faculty advisor. It makes all the difference in the world having an advisor with whom you have synergy!

Are you interested in mentoring undergraduates?
Yes.


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