Alana Dodero

Alana is a senior majoring in Mathematics and Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences. This summer she was selected as one of only six UCLA students to participate in the JIFRESSE program. As part of the program, she is currently working with mentors, Dr. Olga Kalashnikova (JPL) and Prof. Jasper Kok (UCLA). Alana recently gave a great presentation on her research project covering the optical properties of coarse desert dust during the JIFRESSE end of year culmination.

Alana has also participated in the Undergraduate Research Fellow Program, a highly competitive scholarship program that supports undergraduates conducting research in the STEM fields.


How did you first get involved in your research project?

My mentor, Dr. Jasper Kok, actually emailed our department, looking for an undergraduate research assistant for his group. I provided my resume and interviewed for the position. After working with Professor Kok and his team for two quarters, I was able to continue my research and collaborate with my group from UCLA along with scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory through the summer internship program JIFRESSE.

How would you describe your research experience at UCLA?

Doing research at UCLA has easily been one of my favorite parts of my college experience. UCLA is a research university, so almost every professor is working on an interesting project. In my experience, most professors are eager to teach undergraduates who show initiative. My first research experience was with Dr. Marcelo Chamecki, who provided me with an incredible opportunity to do hands-on research my first year at UCLA. I got involved with his research group simply by going to his office hours and asking questions. After practicing coding and participating in Professor Chamecki’s research, I had skills that helped me achieve my other research goals.

What is one piece of advice you have for other students thinking about getting involved in research?

Do it! Take initiative! No one is going to hunt you down and ask you to participate in their research. You need to reach out. It can definitely be daunting to talk to extremely accredited professors about their research and how to get involved, but once you get started, you see that most professors care a lot about teaching undergraduates (and have made it a priority for years). Research allows you to gain skills and apply your knowledge in ways that actually excite you. Doing research is the best way to figure out what you are interested in but also to discover many different areas and fields that you wouldn’t otherwise experience.

What are your future career goals?

Even in my senior year at UCLA, this question still scares me a bit. Add in a global pandemic, and my goals are seeming more and more obscure. Overall, I want to pursue higher education and research. My experiences at UCLA have shown me an appreciation for educating future generations of scientists and also for conducting research. However, as I mentioned, pursuing my goals has often opened doors that I didn’t know even existed such as my summer internship. I am eager to continue my education and see what opportunities I have to benefit my field and create positive changes overall.