What do you expect from your summer research experience?
Yep, that’s right. You understood that title correctly. You see, like many of my fellow BSURF researchers, one of the main hopes I have for my summer experience is the humble desire to just have done my experiment correctly and to see results. In my particular situation results will come in the form of sprouting seedlings of a select group of trees and shrubs. Now to see these type of results will be exciting for me for several reasons. First, as I pointed out, growth will indicate that I haven’t completely failed my experiment, which would be really great. Secondly, and this is my inner plant nerd coming out here, the idea that within my many, many petri dishes of many, many seeds, life is being brought forth to await my observation is just plain exciting to me. It’s exciting in that I am just interested in plant growth in general, and for the fact that my observation of these sprouting seedlings and any patterns I see and conclusions I draw about growth in differing salinity levels can eventually play a role in a bigger picture in which I am very passionate about, and that is conserving tree life in the actual outside world, one of the goals of my ecologically-based lab.
So, in terms of expectations I would say I expect this kind of interest and passion to grow as I (hopefully) see results. Also, I do honestly expect to see some such results eventually, partly because I feel that I have followed the procedures to my experiment carefully/with understanding and partly because at the very least, I know I will be able to ask my PI, Dr. Wright, for pointers and corrections if I end up needing to. I also believe that as time passes I will become more comfortable in my lab setting as I start becoming increasingly familiar with where things are, how to operate experiment-related machines, how to set up my experiment more and more efficiently, and as I become increasingly comfortable with those working in my lab with me. For the most part, these have been kind of short term expectations, so in the long run I expect my summer experience to impact my life by perhaps becoming a longer term project that I can alter for even more detailed and helpful results down the line. Additionally, I hope that this experience will give me insight into my academic and occupational goals. For instance, I have been weighing my interests in Duke’s Environmental Science program versus Duke’s Biology (with a focus in Ecology) program, and my new connections to other students, graduates, and biology faculty have given me more information on the program differences so that I might go where my main interests are. As another example, I wanted to walk away from this summer knowing whether research is a side of science in which I am particularly interested so that I could apply that information to my plans for my future job and/or schooling decisions.
Basically, then, to answer the question about my expectations, I am looking forward to BSURF helping me get to know my interests and goals better as well as helping fuel my ever-growing fascination with plants (especially trees!). And honestly, all along this adventurous road I’m embarking upon, I will probably be daydreaming about my little seeds bursting forth with life and becoming the most adorable baby trees ever.