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Graduate Student Profile
Bianca Pier
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Bianca Pier

Hometown: Niskayuna, NY, USA
Undergraduate Study: Siena College, B.S. Biology, 2010
Degree(s) Sought: Ph.D. Biology
Department: Biology
Faculty Advisor: Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer and Chuck Boylen
Expected year of graduation: 2015

Bianca’s research focuses on understanding the effects of anthropogenic nutrients on wetland plants to aid in developing more efficient phytoremediation systems. She is a Co-Chair of the School of Science Graduate Student Council and her ultimate goal is to become a professor at a small college.

Describe your graduate research and its purpose/applications.

In my study, I will observe how wetland plants in the Lake George Watershed are responding to and utilizing the common anthropogenic nutrients nitrate and phosphate, which are found at high concentrations in water systems as a result of increased land use, use of fertilizers, and distribution of waste products.  I will observe plant community structure differences, morphological changes in prevalent plant species, and physiological changes in a key wetland plant, Lemna minor.  I seek to apply this knowledge about plant response to anthropogenic nutrients toward developing more efficient phytoremediation systems. 

What are your hobbies and interests?

My biggest interest outside of science is ballet.  I actually worked as a professional ballerina during college where I performed with the ballet company, Albany Berkshire Ballet.  I continue to teach ballet, jazz, and modern at the school there.  Dance is an incredible outlet for me, and I think that it is really important to have a balance of work, play, mind, and body.  Dance creates this balance for me… and I would probably go crazy without it.  I also love music, and play the piano and the guitar, although these instruments do easily frustrate me.  Other than that, I love to experience nature even when I am not studying it and I love to capture it through photography.

What made you decide to attend Rensselaer?

I have always been sincerely interested in the biology of plants. These incredible organisms are sessile and cannot really move around. And so, they must adapt to any environmental changes or stressors that come their way, or else they will perish. Because I went to Siena College for my undergraduate studies, I was very nearby Rensselaer. And so, I heard through the grapevine about the Darrin Fresh Water Institute (DFWI) where there was research being conducted on aquatic plants. I became very interested in DFWI, and contacted the Director, Sandra Nierzwicki-Bauer.  We got to talking about the research they do there and I decided that I wanted to be a part of it. I saw that at DFWI I could study the plants I am so interested in, be a part of meaningful ecological research, and make a difference in the Lake George community (where the main DFWI facility is located) by turning research into policy. Not to mention, I’m from the area and have always heard great things about RPI, and was excited to become a part of the growing Biology Department here. 

What are some benefits of being part of the Graduate Community at Rensselaer?

Collaboration!  Here at Rensselaer, there are just so many opportunities to collaborate with scientists from every imaginable scientific field of study.  This is especially evident in the graduate community where students come from a wide array of backgrounds, with a wide array of interests, and with a passion for learning.  I have learned so much from other graduate students here, and I hope to continue to collaborate with them throughout my career.

Feeling like a part of something BIG!  I don’t know what it is about this institution, but it always makes me feel like I walk the hallowed halls of geniuses.  I think a lot of it is the vast history of this place, and all of the brilliant people who paved their way here.  Regardless, it is inspiring!

What would you tell a prospective student about choosing Rensselaer?

I would tell any prospective graduate student to make sure they have found something at Rensselaer that they are really passionate about studying.  And then if they have found it, I would encourage them to come here so they can really immerse themselves in that field, integrate themselves into a unique community of thinkers, and begin to shape themselves into the lifelong student they want to become.

What are your plans following graduation?

My ultimate goal is to become a professor at a small college.  My career pathway was carved by excellent teachers who sparked my curiosity, encouraged me to ask questions, and taught me that discovery is the most fantastic thing a person can experience.  I aspire to be just like them and to ignite that same passion for science, discovery, and learning that they ignited in me.  In order to get to that point, I will most likely need to conduct post-doctoral work so I can really hone my own research interests and come up with interesting questions that I and my future students can pursue. 



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