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Wilkes Honors College Student Conducts Research at Harvard University

Tokio SanoOctober 28th, 2013 (Jupiter, FL)—All of the students at Florida Atlantic University's Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College conduct undergraduate research before they graduate, but not all of them have the chance to do so at an Ivy League school. Nevertheless, that's exactly what Wilkes Honors College senior Tokio Sano did during the summer of 2013. He spent a month at Harvard University, working on some very big research about some very small creatures: ants.
Sano, who is concentrating in biology at the Honors College, has been interested in entomology since his arrival at the college in 2010. So it came as no surprise to his professors and peers that, when an opportunity arose for him to conduct biological research at one of the most prestigious universities in the country he jumped at the chance. In May of 2013, Sano traveled to Boston, Massachusetts to continue the work he began under Dr. James Wetterer, a biologist at the Honors College and world-renowned expert in the field of ant research, and contribute to the growing body of research on one of the Earth's most populous organisms.
While at Harvard, Tokio worked under Dr. David Lubertazzi, an ant researcher and one of the minds behind the creation of the Antwiki, a collective effort to catalogue all the different ant species around the world. "I was responsible for adding Dr. Wetterer's ant specimens that he collected from around the world to a database, as well as adding information onto the Antwiki," explains Sano. This process involved painstakingly examining collected ant specimens and recording information about them in these databases. "The most challenging part of work was reading the microscopic labels that had the specimen information on them when databasing," Sano comments. However, not all of his work at Harvard was that arduous. He also had the opportunity to accompany some of the researchers in the lab on field expeditions, helping them to collect and catalogue specimens and taking the opportunity to study the organisms he worked with in their natural environment. "The most enjoyable experience was going on specimen collecting trips with the staff," says Sano. "They were so knowledgeable about the wildlife in the Boston area."
A research opportunity such as this one is a dream come true for most undergraduate students, and for Sano it was no different. When he left Boston in June, he returned to Florida with a renewed passion for biology and excitement for his own research in the field. "The experience has refocused my interest to organismal studies," Sano explains. For him, the study of life forms is best examined in the environment in which they thrive. "The ability to go out to the field and conduct research was very appealing to me."

As Sano completes his senior year at the Honors College, he looks forward to a bright future in research, which may be greatly aided by his time at Harvard.  He plans to stay open to new opportunities in and out of academia after graduation, but he knows that no matter where he decides to go, his passion for research will be at the forefront of his efforts. Like many other students at the Honors College, Sano is excited about the chance to put the knowledge and experiences he has had as an undergraduate to work in the future.

About Florida Atlantic University: Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit www.fau.edu
Last Modified 11/21/13