Tania Feliz Soto ’22: Bosak Lab, MIT

Name: Tania Feliz Soto
Class Year: 2022
Major: Geology
Hometown: Boston

Internship Organization: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bosak Lab
Job Title: Research Affiliate
Location: Cambridge, Mass.

What’s happening at your internship?

Here at the Bosak Lab, researchers study the development of early life on Earth and use modern organisms to model and understand life that can now only be found on the geologic record. I have been working on research regarding stromatolites, which are believed to be evidence of the earliest life on Earth⎯ cyanobacteria. Modern Cyanobacteria exist today in very limited environments where extreme conditions prevent other life from thriving. One such location is Shark Bay, Australia, where hypersaline waters act as the perfect shelter for cyanobacteria. Here, cyanobacteria called Entophysalis form pustular colonies strikingly similar in shape and texture to some 2.6 billion year old stromatolites. We know that in these ancient stromatolites, silica is present in the form of chert and seems to play a role in preservation. In the lab, we run experiments where Entophysalis and other modern cyanobacteria are exposed to a silicified ocean environment similar to the ancient environment to better understand their interaction with silica, how they fossilize and what factors contribute to the fossilization.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I sought this opportunity because I am interested in pursuing geology. However, I’ve come to understand that it is a broad and interdisciplinary field. I want to learn more about the connections between geology and other sciences, in this case biology, so that I can find specific area that I would like to focus on in the future.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced at your internship?

One of the biggest challenges I have encountered so far is reading scientific literature to understand the background and scope of the research I’m doing. It has proven difficult since you have to put the information of the different papers together specially when forming connections between ancient life and the present. Also using this information in my own ideas has been difficult since not all experiments are logistically possible within the short time I have this summer.

What is most rewarding about your internship?

What I’ve found to be the most enjoyable aspect of this internship is the guidance I have received from the graduate student I’m working closely with. I appreciate the balance in learning and independence since I’m encouraged to pursue my own ideas using the lab techniques and information I’ve learned. Although challenging, the research has been fun and stimulating as I have met people who are very excited about their research and eager to learn more.