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Long time no see!!! As I expected, life began to take over and I have not had a lot of time to write an update. However, here I am! I have been very busy at the lab and exploring East Tennessee on my weekends. I hope you enjoy this update.
I have 3 weeks left at the lab and in Oak Ridge. The summer has flown by but I have learned so much in these past few weeks. The amount of experience I am getting and the connections I am making will definitely help me in the future. I also have been taking advantage of the researchers I am surrounded with by learning about their career and asking for advice. It is so valuable to hear about another’s journey because you might learn about something that you never knew existed or you might find yourself in their shoes down the road.
I have various required activities during my appointment. There are seminars on Wednesdays and then ‘Lunch & Learn’ events on Thursdays. The events have been about safety at the lab, the deliverables that are due at the end of the summer, and research being conducted at the lab. By the end of the summer, I will have completed a paper and a poster presentation.
To provide more resources and information on our future careers, ORNL hosted a Career Connections Day. This all day event began with remarks from Dr. Moody Altamimi, Director of the ORNL Office of Research Excellence. She was followed by Dr. Lee L. Riedinger Director of the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education. He was a great speaker and gave the advice to “pursue leadership” if your personality works in that role. The following speaker before lunch was Eric Benson, an Organizational Development and Training Consultant in Human Resources. His presentation outlined the power of managing your connections early on and the steps one must take to actually do that. His best advice was, “Life’s too short [what ever you do], have a passion for it”.
After lunch, we were honored to have the opportunity to listen to Dr. Michelle Buchanan, the Deputy for Science and Technology at ORNL. She shared details about career path and discussed her own family values. This has become one of my favorite things that researchers talk about. I believe family and having a life outside of it is important, especially for myself. I am sure some people do not need that, but I am at the age where I realize I need that kind of support in my life. She shared that having a family balance was important for her and that it is possible to have both research and a family. Dr. Buchanan did it and now look at the position she holds. She did add that it was necessary to have a supportive spouse. She married a chemist and her daughter is now a chemist. I can imagine that having someone in a similar field as you is easier because they understand your work struggles more. She also noted you will need to compromise over the years and have patience.
Next, we had a panel of ORNL Scientists discussing “Building Your Connections – Creating Your Community”. Each scientist had different backgrounds and career paths. Some of the suggestions I scribbled down in my notes suggested considering attending graduate school abroad, finding a mentor with passion, and considering work before attaining a PhD. The last two presentations were focused on building your brand and how to utilize social media for career connections. We heard from Brian Rose, an ORISE Recruiter and a panel of recruiters. The end of the day was dedicated to various stations. They included professional groups such as the Committee for Women and Women in Physics and various 5-minute critique stations for LinkedIn accounts, resumes, or interviews. To continue encouraging our professional development, the lab hosted a Professional Organization Day to sign up and meet industry professionals.
Making My Own Connections
Amidst my spree of adding people on LinkedIn after learning how important connections are, I noticed someone in my suggested connections list who was a Juniata College alum and works at NOAA currently. I clicked on her profile and saw she was a previous Hollings Scholar and she did the same study abroad program in the Galapagos that I am doing in the Spring. Using the skills that I have learned in the past few weeks, I sent her a message to reach out and see if we could talk. She agreed and I was very excited!
Fast-forward to the next week and we had a great phone call. Her name is Katie Shelledy and she graduate from Juniata with a degree in Biology when I was a freshman (2017). She did her Hollings internship in Wood’s Hole, MA studying fish bioacoustics. She is currently working as a Junior acoustician at the James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. She discussed how her mentor from her internship played a large role in getting her current position. Yet another example of the importance of connections.
We also discussed her experience in the GAIAS program in the Galapagos. She participated in the same module I am interested in, Marine Ecology. The students in that module spent most their time out in the water. She noted that this immersive experience was the best semester because of the amount of field experience she gained and the fact that the world is literally your classroom there. This definitely sounds like the program for me! Katie is currently applying to graduate schools and is interested in an interdisciplinary program.
Her advice to me was to “trust yourself, be patient, take advantage of new connections, have a good network, and have a life as well” and the most important: take things “one day at a time”. Talking to Katie provided me with invaluable insight into what my future could hold. She has had many of the experiences that I will be having and in general, it is nice to talk to someone who also came from a small school, in fact the same small school. I am very excited to have Katie in my network now and talk to her more in the future.
I also recently had lunch with a Post-doctoral Research Associate who is part a collaborative team working to understand coastal wetland carbon sequestration in a warmer climate. She is also from a small school and it was fun to understand how different people in her life affected her path through marine science. Yet another great new connection!
On June 16th, Oak Ridge celebrated its annual Lavender Festival. This all day event included numerous vendors, live music, food, and LOTS of lavender. When I walked towards the event, the aroma of lavender in the hot air swarmed me. I was able to enjoy local food, lavender lemonade, and lavender ice cream. I also bought a few items to enjoy the lavender weeks later. It was a beautiful day.
In addition to the festival, the Farmers Market was also bustling with fresh produce, which is a weekly occurrence. I have enjoyed going to the farmers market every Saturday to get vegetables for my meals. Lately, it has meant more to me to support local businesses and to know where my food is coming from. I highly suggest a farmers market to anyone considering attending. The farmers are very knowledgeable about their produce and its a great community. Also, supporting local business is important to keep family businesses alive!
On the weekends, my friends and I have been able to enjoy cooking and eating together. We have had many dinner parties and have experimented with a lot of foods. Good Saturdays with good friends and good food!
In addition to food, I have enjoyed the nature. I walked around the University of Tennessee Arboretum with a friend after work one day.
I have also found that there are many quarries in this area and have explored many of those.
First, I went to Fort Dickerson quarry right outside downtown Knoxville. There was a lot of people along the trail’s edge enjoying the weather, lots of dogs, and every float you can imagine in the water. There was a large rock wall that was perfect for climbing!
The second quarry is in West Oak Ridge. There was a path to walk down to get there, which was about a mile. Therefore, there was no one there until around the time we left.
I adventured to the third quarry in early July. I spent the day hiking at Ijams Nature Center and then went down to Mead’s Quarry. It was beautiful but we did not go out on the water. However, when my mom visited, we rented paddle boards and enjoyed the quarry for a sunset paddle.
My mom visited for a short weekend, but we did a lot. On Saturday, we went to the farmers market and then headed to downtown Knoxville for brunch. We at on Market Square at Tupuelo Honey. It was delicious.
We went to Ijams Nature Center for hiking that afternoon and paddle boarding at Mead’s Quarry. Our evening ended with a showing of Ocean’s 8.
The next day we headed to Melton Lake for more paddle boarding and then visited with family before taking her to the airport.
Back To Business
You are probably wondering how my research project is going. It has been a long process but we have finalized my poster on Friday and have completed the first draft of my abstract. Next Monday, my paper is due so that will be a lot of what I am working on this week. It has been an interesting journey but I have learned a lot about research in the ecology field. One of the best skills I have learned is being able to read scientific papers. I cannot wait to share my results with you all but I am going to wait until everything is completed. As a refresher, I am studying fine-root branching responses to environmental change. A lot of my work has been working with images of previously processed and scanned roots to determine branching in the past two years. My mentor has given me a lot of the responsibility throughout this process and let me be fairly independent. I have enjoyed experiencing the challenges and the troubleshooting. We are hoping for me to get more root picking experience in my last few weeks at the lab.
Thanks for all your support and for reading my updates! Feel free to contact me if you have any comments or questions. I end my internship August 10th and I am going back to Juniata for preseason on August 17th.
Until next time!!!