I have just completed the first week of my internship and am loving it! There are about ten researchers in the lab in various stages of their education and careers, but they are all focused on studying the neural circuitry of the limbic system in the brain. This system is particularly important in memory and emotion and in problems such as addiction, depression, and Parkinson’s disease. As an overall task, the other undergraduate and I are responsible for weekly duties that include taking supply inventory, sterilizing glassware, and making up the chemical solutions that are used in experiments. Specifically, I am assigned to work with a very helpful graduate student who is researching the differences in the brains of female and male mice. She uses fluorescent and modified retrograde viruses to
Mice are important tools in the lab because neural mechanisms must be understood so that physiological and pharmaceutical ‘cures’ can be designed effectively. So far, I have learned a lot about the care of mice in the lab, and taken a mandatory training for ethical care and handling. One important technique in studying the brain is the use of disabled viral injections that are modified to bind to proteins in certain neurons, causing them to fluoresce under tissue imagery. I spent a day watching and learning about the surgery techniques used for this. I also received hands on instruction and practice with preparing these brains for study and generating ultra thin tissue slices.
I also attended a lab meeting where researchers in the lab and in our partner lab presented and discussed their projects with one another. This was a great opportunity to learn about my colleagues work! Our lab has also had a journal club this week, where we discuss a recently published science paper, discuss its merits, and how it can be related to the work in our own research. I am loving being able to talk to all these cool people. As a bonus, I get to bike along the Seattle waterfront to work every day! I am hopeful that the next nine weeks will be just as wonderful!
Growing up right outside of San Francisco has really shaped my passions and interests. I can arrive at the beach in less than fifteen minutes from my house and I could easily walk to the beach from my high school as it was only eight blocks away. The close proximity to the multitude of beaches and the beautiful scenery that this area holds really enhanced my love of the ocean and my passion to conserve and protect this environment that I love so much. That is why I decided to intern at All One Ocean this summer, a local non profit that dedicates itself to educating the community about the issue of ocean plastic pollution and prides itself on providing ways for people to reduce their use of plastics.
I first learned about All Once Ocean when I was at Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands, my favorite beach in the area, when I walked past one of their beach clean up stations. The fantastic artwork caught my eye and I was intrigued about what this box was. I later found their website and learned about these beach clean up stations that are filled with reused coffee bags. Hallie Austen Iglehart, the founder of the organization and someone I work with, came up with this idea a few years ago. She wanted an easy and accessible way for people to pick up their trash and so the goal of these boxes is to provide the bags for people to throw their trash into in order to divert that trash from ending up in the oceans and harming marine animals.
I loved this idea and reached out to All One Ocean and have now been working with them for about a month. I work primarily with two women the director, Lauren Weiner, and her assistant, Katie Strong. Together we are working on expanding All One Ocean’s outreach and influence through ramping up their Twitter and Instagram feeds in order to educate more people about the important issue of plastic pollution. Already we have received almost a hundred new followers on Twitter, reaching our numbers to 644 and are also increasing our Instagram followers. (You can follow us @AllOneOcean on Twitter and All One Ocean on Instagram). I am also currently in the process of filling out a grant proposal for a Whole Foods program in which customers can choose to donate a nickel to a nonprofit that Whole Foods has chosen, which hopefully will be us! This is a huge project that I am working on with Katie and we are hoping that Whole Foods will pick us for this amazing program.
Along with the Whole Foods Program, we are also in the midst of organizing a beach clean up in mid July. Our beach clean up will be at Horseshoe Cove in Sausalito and we chose that beach specifically because it needs a little love! The beach is covered in trash and we are hoping to clean that all up in order to prevent marine animals from ingesting the plastic and getting sick. I am also attending a talk next week from Captain Charles Moore who was the first scientist to investigate the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I will attend that talk in order to gain new information about that problem that hopefully we can share with our community. Overall I am having a great time working with All One Ocean and feel like All One Ocean has taught me a lot already about the problem of plastic pollution, which I would love to bring back to the Whitman community!
I have started my summer in Walla Walla planting seeds. This wouldn’t seem surprising as I am working on my Biology Senior Thesis research on plants, except that those are not the only seeds I am talking about. The Whitman campus and Walla Walla take on a whole new meaning and identity when I take away the ever present shadow of schoolwork and let the 90+ °F sunlight stream in. I have been spending most of my days in on the roof of the Science building in the research greenhouse. My research work is called a common garden experiment where I take seeds from a large variety of locations and grow them all up under the same conditions. This is done with the thinking that the differences between the different plants in the study population are a result of the differences in location rather than other factors. I am working with Professor Cooley (third from the right below) on the Chilean Mimulus also known as the monkey flower. The Mimulus is on the cutting edge of research for both genetics and evolution. I am interested in learning more about evolution and my summer research is allowing me to explore how real plant physiology and evolutionary research is performed.
To begin research, I have to plant the seeds, all 5000 of them. Luckily, I had the help of my fellow Whitman student Jeremy Nolan (far left) who is also working with Professor Cooley over the summer. We began the day after Commencement and had our plan of attack all marked out. For my part, there was color coding and mapped locations involved while Jeremy provides the music and energy to keep going whenever we stall and forced to backtrack our work to make sure everything is correct. I had done a large seed plant out before in my previous work with Professor Cooley and was able felt familiar with the tools, setup, and patience needed to count and plant seeds in an organized manner that are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. After two days, our planting was completed and I was able to begin prepping for my research by reading published articles and familiarizing myself with data collection methods while waiting for my plants to grow. By Day 7, any little worries I had were put to rest when the seeds germinated (pictured below). With their growth I was finally able to relax and begin the real process of researching. I am currently working on figuring out what data to collect and the best methods for collection as well as slowly putting all the information I have gathered so far into the beginning nebulus of a thesis. The research is satisfying and I am learning a lot about the scientific process in detail as I go along. In addition to the hard skills of organization and note taking, I am learning a lot about what it means to be a Whitman student and how the opportunities I have here are unique and allow me to grow in my own path.
When I first arrived at the Early Childhood Cognition Lab at the University of Washington, I was a bit star struck. All of a sudden I was surrounded by accomplished graduate students and researchers famous in the field of developmental psychology. I realized that I stumbled into an internship that would not only teach me basic research skills, but would challenge me to think deeply about high level psychological concepts.
Over the course of my first few days in the lab I learned general lab procedures, such as how to work with data in excel and how to comply with different laws that the lab must follow when working with human subjects in a research capacity. Next I was trained in how to recruit and schedule participants. This involves a lot of calling and emailing. I also learned all about the different studies that the lab is currently running, which look at how infants reason about the world around them. With this knowledge I could sufficiently answer questions I was asked by parents. These tasks, while sometimes challenging and tedious, are preparing me for my next big assignment in the lab.
This coming week I will embark on my main project for the summer, which will involve working under one graduate student and collecting data for her study. In this role I will be responsible for running all of the participants through the study and recording and managing the data I have collected. Here I will have to put all of my skills to work and really show that I am capable of running a research study. While I feel a lot of pressure to perform well in this role, a recent meeting with all of the graduate students and post-docs has made me realize that I have to start thinking of every new role that comes my way as an opportunity, not an obligation.
One of my favorite parts of being a member of the ECCL is getting to attend the lab’s Membership Development Meetings. In these meetings the graduate students and post-docs choose a topic that they think those not yet in graduate school would benefit from learning about. During one of my favorite meetings the graduate students discussed what graduate school is like on a personal level. They discussed that because most psychology PhD programs take about five years to complete, you sometimes have to put other things on hold, like getting married or settling down. They also discussed the positive aspects of graduate school, such as getting to be your own boss and finding answers to questions you care about. For someone who is unsure what they want to do after graduation, hearing these first hand accounts and opinions of grad school is so incredibly valuable to me.
While at first finding a summer internship felt like an obligation, I now realize that participating in a summer internship is a huge opportunity. For me, being a part of the ECCL has given me the opportunity to not just learn skills that will benefit me in the future, but it has given me the chance to discover more about myself and direction I see my career and life going in after I leave Whitman- and for that I feel incredibly lucky and grateful.
I’m one week in and just another week away from working with the middle school summer programs, and I’ve been acquainting myself with the gardens, prepping materials, and researching lesson plans.
After touring the two middle school gardens I’ll be working with and studying up on their garden maintenance policies, I’ve been consolidating some old volunteer handouts so that future volunteers can get all of our best group management tips in one document.
Along with this, I’ve been reading through two big lovely books full of old lesson plans and guides for establishing and enriching school garden programs. I’m most of the way through one of them, “The Growing Classroom” from a school in Santa Cruz. I’ve been earmarking lessons that I’d like to borrow or adapt, but it’s also just been particularly pleasant to read because of the holistic nature of the materials inside. The lessons aren’t just classroom days that have been adapted for garden work—they all come together to make the book itself a sort of garden education manifesto, rife with playful cross-disciplinary illustrations and wonderful arguments for the pedagogical benefits of learning through stewardship.
Lastly, I have begun researching what the EPA calls “service learning projects” most of the examples of which deal with recycling, composting, and other forms of waste reduction. This also interests me because it involves a critical resistance to the literal mainstream of material waste production, the everyday narrative that things become trash, and that trash goes away. One project that caught my eye in particular involved compost arrangements between local businesses and schools. My next step is to find out what goes into setting up, funding, and maintaining any of these kinds of projects. Since some are less suitable to be started during the summer—either for seasonal reasons or because school isn’t in session—I wouldn’t necessarily be able to see certain projects through, but could still be helpful in setting them up.
This coming week I’ll be finishing the document and both books so that I can start planning my lessons and activities week by week. Beginning a week from Tuesday, I’ll be leading two lessons per week for the rest of the internship!