Outstanding Seniors in the College of Science: Kristen Saban
Link to Article: https://science.arizona.edu/news/outstanding-seniors-college-science-kr…;
Dec. 13, 2023
By Adam Gonzales, College of Science
This fall, each department in the University of Arizona's College of Science nominated an outstanding senior who went above and beyond during their time as a Wildcat. We are pleased to share their stories as they reflect on their time at UArizona. Our final Outstanding Senior is Kristen Saban in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, who was also named the Outstanding Senior in the College of Science.
Hometown: Jericho, New York
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
College of Science: Why did you choose your area of study?
Saban: I was born and raised on Long Island, New York, where I didn’t have much exposure to completely natural landscapes. When I first started my journey at the University of Arizona, I was surrounded by unique cacti, shrubs, and lizards for the first time. I was fascinated by the biodiversity that surrounded me throughout the Sonoran Desert, and I found it fascinating to think about how anything was able to thrive in the harsh environment. These experiences filled me with questions of evolution and adaptation to novel environments, which pointed me in the direction of the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology department. I have absolutely loved my time exploring these questions further through coursework and research in EEB.
COS: Tell us about a class or research project you really enjoyed.
Saban: One of the most transformative experiences I’ve had at UA has been the opportunity to work as an undergraduate researcher in Dr. John Wiens’ lab. When I began my studies in EEB, I was intimidated by the prospect of asking questions at almost incomprehensibly large scales – temporally covering hundreds of millions of years of evolution and spatially spanning the entire globe. In the Wiens lab, however, I learned how to not only ask these questions, but how to design and execute research plans to answer them. My research there focused on niche conservatism (the tendency of closely related species to retain similar characteristics) and the evolution of herbivorous diets in vertebrates. With the support of Dr. Wiens, I gained a global perspective on questions in EEB with the confidence and skills to answer them. This experience greatly shaped my research interests going forward, and I am incredibly grateful to have been surrounded by such supportive faculty throughout it all.
COS: What is one specific memory from your time at UA that you'll cherish forever?
Saban: One memory that will stick with me forever is Space Camp at Biosphere 2. In my junior year, I was a research intern with the NASA Arizona Space Grant Consortium. As part of the program, I was selected to spend a week living and learning at the Biosphere 2 facility with four other students from Arizona and three students from Japan. Under the guidance of JAXA astronaut Takao Doi, we learned about the intersections of ecology and space habitation and conducted field experiments in the different Biosphere 2 biomes. I had such an incredible time working with my brilliant fellow campers and faculty at Biosphere 2, and this experience kickstarted my interest in space biology that resulted in further collaborations with NASA.
COS: What is next for you after graduation?
Saban: I will be continuing my training as a scientist by pursuing a Ph.D. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology. I have submitted my applications and am now waiting to hear back! In the meantime, I look forward to spending some time with my family and traveling around the country.