Full Immersion: reflections from an undgrad researcher

The Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center supports students to participate in a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at KBS during the summer. This is part of a larger undergraduate research program at KBS. Matthew Carey is studying at Norfolk State University. He wrote about his REU experience working with KBS GLBRC Research Associate Karen Nikolakakis in Katherine Gross‘ lab.

Full Immersion: My Life as a KBS REU

The best way to describe my twelve week experience with the Research Experience for Undergraduate program at the Kellogg Biological Station is as a full immersion into a dynamic learning environment. As an REU, I was granted the opportunity to ask unexplored questions pertaining to a research project, develop a plan for investigating these questions, perform the experiment in both field and lab settings, analyze and interpret the data that I collected, and to organize the data onto a poster which I presented at a symposium. This project involved switchgrass for biofuel production and was done within Katherine Gross’s lab under the supervision of my mentor Karen Stahlheber. My particular experiment analyzed how drought stress, nitrogen fertilization and their interactive effects impact the cell wall composition among two switchgrass varieties (Cave-in-Rock and Southlow). I was able to work at both Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) sites throughout the course of my project.

Matthew Carey and ______standing in field

Matthew Carey, REU participant and his mentor Karen Stahlheber out in the KBS GLBRC field.

Surprisingly, my experience as an REU at the Kellogg Biological Station outside of my individual research component was equally rewarding for a variety of reasons. The breathtaking aesthetic beauty and impressive biodiversity present on the biological station was truly inspirational. It also didn’t hurt to be living right at the edge of the warm, crystal clear waters of Gull Lake. While not at work on my project my days consisted of relaxing on Windmill Island, playing soccer and volleyball, taking canoes out to the sandbar, exploring the Bird Sanctuary and numerous trails, biking around the encompassing area, and religiously watching the magnificent Michigan sunset down on the dock with my friends. Simply being surrounded by such a passionate, diverse, and authentic group of researchers and students made my stay better than I could have ever asked for.

Sunset on Gull Lake

The sunset view from a dock on Gull Lake that Matthew would observe during his free time at KBS.

The faculty and staff present at the Kellogg Biological Station made it very apparent that they were passionate and fully invested in our futures. We were given several opportunities to interact with graduate students, professors, department heads, eminent ecologists, and scientists in the workforce. I was able to obtain a range of raw, unbiased opinions that truly aided in the reaffirmation of my path and decision to pursue a graduate education. I am so grateful to have been able to participate in the Research Experience for Undergraduates program at the Kellogg Biological Station and owe them an immense amount of credit in shaping me into a much more confident and qualified scientist and person. Thank you KBS for all that you have done for me, and for inspiring myself and many others with your exciting research and opportunities!

This piece was originally posted at http://kbsreu.blogspot.com/

REU Student group from 2015

The 2015 group of REU students at KBS.