Student follows passion, lands prestigious internship at Smithsonian Museum

Daniel Galvet ’23 has been visiting museums for as long as he could remember, which is why when he saw a research experience for undergraduates opportunity at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, he was determined to get it.

As an aspiring zoologist with a deep interest in animals and plants, including their evolution, behavior and life histories, Galvet has spent his summer conducting museomics research alongside the curator of mammals at the Smithsonian.

“Our work focused on a diverse group of shrews from Africa and Eurasia whose species, for the most part, look highly similar—almost identical in some cases,” said Galvet. “We attempted to use DNA sequencing to uncover new species and clarify the confusing evolutionary relationships of existing species. I was responsible for getting tissue samples from our specimens, extracting the DNA, purifying it, preparing it for sequencing and creating family trees using the specimens whose DNA we sequenced.”

While much of the work he was conducting in the laboratory was new to him and required training, Galvet said his College of Arts and Sciences lab experiences at Quinnipiac in courses such as organic chemistry and developmental biology prepared him for the intricacy and precision his work required. But it wasn't just his lab experiences that prepared him.

“In the classroom, I was introduced to several topics that I read about and conducted research on in my time at the Smithsonian,” said Galvet. “For example, in my evolution class last semester, I learned about cryptic diversity, which was a central theme to our work and research questions given that the shrews we were studying looked so similar.”

Galvet said his experience has helped him further his career goals in several ways, including learning about the different kinds of work he can do with his interests, building a network of professionals he can continue to learn from and developing many different laboratory skills. He encourages others to let their passions guide their academic and professional career choices just as he did.

“If you are committed to a specific job or field – if you have that ‘North Star’ that guides you – the no obstacle is too much to overcome,” said Galvet. “If the road ahead seems difficult or progress seems slow, you must believe that hard work and dedication will yield rewarding, fulfilling results. I didn’t have many opportunities to work within my field when I was younger, but my persistence has been paying off. This year, I got to work at one of the most prestigious science institutions in the world.”

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