In this 'Meet the Postgraduate' blog, we spoke to Ana Cecilia Híjar Islas. Ana, from Mexico is studying an MSc in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences (SBCS). She joined Queen Mary University of London in September 2017, on a scholarship from the Mexican National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT).
Ana Cecilia Híjar Islas
What is life like as a Queen Mary student?
The thing I like the most about Queen Mary is how inclusive it is. Every year the university receives a high number of international students from many different countries. People are always friendly and willing to help you. Students also get to enjoy lots of social activities, job fairs, and volunteer work opportunities, which are a perfect way of meeting new friends.
Why did you decide to study Ecology and Evolutionary Biology?
The Ecology and Evolutionary Biology MSc course was particularly appealing to me because it offers preparation in scientific writing and critical thinking. It also includes lots of field work to develop practical skills, such as capture and management of organisms for later identification, which are very important in ecological research.
Tell us about your project on bees
I am currently working on my dissertation project as part of the Bee Sensory and Behavioural Ecology Lab, under the supervision of Dr Lars Chittka and Dr Olli Loukola, in the behavioural ecology of solitary bees. These insects are extremely intelligent, very docile, and fascinating! They are better pollinators than honey bees, and play an essential role in the ecosystems. However, they not very well known. I am looking at their learning capacity and nesting behaviour - whether they can use visual information of old nests to guide their own nesting choices, by choosing a symbol associated with a successful old nest or rejecting a symbol related to hallmarks of parasitism.
What are your plans for the future?
After finishing my master's course, I intend to do a PhD at Queen Mary as well. Afterwards, I plan to return to my home country where hopefully, I can contribute to the ecological research and development of conservation plans to take care of our ecosystems and natural resources.
What advice do you have for other students?
What I recommend is always to enjoy your work, and to follow a career path you feel passionate about. London is an exciting place to live, you never run out of places to visit and things to do! The fact that it is a multicultural city makes it exciting and enjoyable; you get to know people from all over the world and learn about different cultures and life stories. It is nice to talk to people who are going through the same things as you are, because in them you can find a lot of support, and life-time friendships.