BLaST celebrates December Scientist of the Month

BLaST Scholar Daphne Mueller is smiling and standing in front of green spruce trees and foliage outside in the sun.
BLaST Scholar Daphne Mueller is honored as BLaST Scientist of the Month for December 2022.

Since 2016, the Biomedical Learning and Student Training (BLaST) program at University of Alaska Fairbanks has highlighted scientists from all biomedical fields through its Scientist of the Month articles. BLaST Scholar and UAF biological sciences undergraduate student Daphne Mueller was selected as the December 2022 BLaST Scientist of the Month. More about these articles can be found on the BLaST SOM website.

Daphne Mueller is a UAF senior majoring in biological sciences with a concentration in cell and molecular biology. She is a fifth-year BLaST Scholar, Honors College Scholar, and a first-year Climate Scholar. She is of Filipino descent and grew up in Utqiaġvik, Alaska. She enjoys playing the clarinet and piano, being outdoors, and baking.

Mueller started her research journey back in her home community of Utqiaġvik at IỊisaġvik College under the guidance of former BLaST faculty pilot project awardee (2015-2016) and biology associate professor Linda Nicholas-Figueroa and the Arctic microbes project. Mueller learned many lab skills such as pipetting and PCR, and gained experience training and mentoring undergraduate peers in the lab. Mueller presented her results at the American Society of Microbiology in 2019, and the One Health Conferences at UAF in 2020 and 2021. Mueller also assisted Nicholas-Figueroa on her grant report for this project.

At UAF, Mueller joined former BLaST FPP awardee (2016-2018) Andrej Podlutsky and Sasha White, a former BLaST Graduate Research and Mentoring Assistant and UAF graduate student on Mueller’s project “Omega-3 Intake in Alaska Native Diet and Type 2 Diabetes.” Mueller co-presented with White at the One Health Conference in 2019. Mueller is currently working with former BLaST FPP awardee (2017- 2019) and associate professor Andrés Lopez, on fish and fisheries genetics. Her current research focuses on the merganser diet, developing assays to detect environmental DNA from fish species on the Chena River in Fairbanks. Mueller presented her results on her fish project in a virtual oral presentation at the Alaska Chapter of the American Fisheries Society conference in spring 2021.

Daphne Mueller presented her poster at ABRCMS, November 11, 2022, in Anaheim, California.
Daphne Mueller presented her poster at ABRCMS, November 11, 2022, in Anaheim, California.

This past summer, Mueller completed her capstone project, “Microbial community diversity in sediment and water from the Chena River.” She presented her results of her capstone virtually at the Midnight Sun Science Symposium held in April 2022 at UAF, and in-person, at the American Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students in November 2022.

Mueller shared, “I’ve worked with several amazing mentors throughout my time at UAF and give my thanks to Andrej Podlutsky and one of his graduate students, Sasha White, and to my current mentor Andrés López. I appreciate the freedom I have been given to work on my own research in López’s lab and learned how to set up a project from start to finish. I’d also like to thank Mario Muscarella (current BLaST FPP) for his help with my capstone. I also thank  Linda Nicholas-Figueroa. Without her, I don’t think I would have gone into research. I’d also like to give a shout out to the undergraduates I worked with in Linda’s lab. We mentored each other and learned so much together. And a final thank you to my BLaST RAMPs Emily Sousa and Theresa Vertigan! I have felt so much support from them!”

The Biomedical Learning and Student Training (BLaST) program is a NIH-funded UAF program that enhances capacity for undergraduate biomedical research training and efficacy for engaging students from diverse, especially rural Alaskan, backgrounds in education and training for biomedical research careers. BLaST started in 2014 and continues to provide research opportunities for faculty, staff and students through its many workshops, curriculum, and research support and is in its second five-year phase II program.

For any questions about this article or any BLaST publications, please contact Amy Topkok.