Academics

Tree ID around Storrs!

By Emma MacDonald

Ambassador Emma MacDonald

As a freshly admitted student, I came to UConn in the School of Fine Arts. However, I realized that wasn’t the right path for me before I even attended classes, switching my major to Environmental Studies, in CLAS, at my freshman orientation. But I soon found that Environmental Studies was too broad a field for me, and I was missing science classes. So, I explored new, more focused majors, which led me to CAHNR and the Sustainable Forest Resources concentration in the Natural Resources Program. I took Dendrology with Professor Tom Worthley in the fall of 2018, and the rest is history! So I thought I’d share some of the learning that brought me to where I am: about to graduate from CAHNR with a degree that I loved earning. Without further ado, here is a quick guide to recognizing a couple of trees that can be found around the UConn Storrs campus!

In order to begin identifying trees, it is important to acknowledge that tree ID is not an exact science; every individual tree is unique, and there is a lot of variation within all the individuals of a species, the same way no two humans or cats look exactly alike! Even the most experienced identifier may be stumped by a tree every once in a while, (pun intended) especially due to the existence of hybrids; just like a tiger and lion can mate and produce a liger, trees of different species can sometimes produce offspring as well. So, it would often be impossible to know a tree’s species without breaking the question down to the tree’s very DNA. For this reason, I think of Tree ID as more of a mystery to be solved than an equation with a perfect solution.

The best way to identify trees is to start by examining the bark, then branching patterns, seeds, flowers, and buds. Leaves are also helpful, but they’re not always available. The characteristics you might look for in bark include color, the size and shape of any scales, hardness, and any unique identifiers like lenticels (regularly spaced markings) or blonding (stripped outer layers of bark). The two branching patterns in trees are opposite, meaning that pairs of branches and pairs of leaves grow from the same node on opposite sides of a branch, and alternate, meaning that pairs of branches and pairs of leaves grow from their own separate nodes on a branch. Seeds take on all shapes, sizes, and colors, as do flowers, buds, and leaves. 

All that being said, I will just cover a few trees that have what I call a dead-giveaway trait one that, if you spot it on a tree around UConn, is 99.99% sure to indicate what species that tree is.


ShagbarkHickory Tree3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are five hickories native to New England, but Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) is the easiest to identify because of the shaggy appearance of its bark. Bats often roost in the loose strips of this tree’s bark. Shagbark Hickory is very tall when mature, so you usually won’t be able to use buds to identify this tree. The leaves are compound, meaning that many leaflets make up one leaf. In the case of Shagbark Hickory, there are five leaflets to one leaf. The seeds have a light green casing (maturing to brown), are divided into four sections, and are a little bit bigger than a golf ball. Squirrels love to eat them. Due to its significance to squirrels and bats, this species is denoted as a wildlife species, and is considered to be of high value in a forest ecosystem. Shagbark Hickory trees can be found at UConn on the green space between the Arjona Building, West Campus Residence Halls, Whitney Road, and Gilbert Road.

EasternWhitePine6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pine is often misconstrued as an umbrella term including all conifers, but it is actually just one genus of many included in the conifer group. Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) is the predominant pine species in New England. The bark has papery, layered scales that are usually gray and reddish-orange in places. Since most conifers are evergreen, identification by leaf is possible year round. Eastern White Pine needles are long, thin, and pliable. There are five needles to a fascicle, or bundle. It can be found on campus on the edge of the Great Lawn right next to North Eagleville Road (between the Austin Building, Storrs Congregational Church, and the Young/Ratcliffe Hicks Buildings).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) is another conifer native to New England. Its needles are short and flat and arranged along opposite sides of twigs. The top sides of the needles are a brighter green while the bottom is a more muted green with two distinct white lines. As can be seen in the photos, hemlock trees are currently under stress from the invasive Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. The Adelgid attaches to the base of the needles, sucking out the tree’s nutrients. They are white and fuzzy and look like a dusting of snow. They can be eliminated by an arborist using horticultural oil. A small stand of them can be found behind Gulley Hall, between Beach Hall and the Family Studies Building.

RiverBirch2 RiverBirch3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

River Birch (Betula nigra) is a common tree found in landscaping around UConn, though they normally grow near wetlands. The bark peels off of the young trees in haphazard, papery sheets. Young bark has patches of many different colors including white and shades of brown. In the fall, River Birch’s arrowhead-shaped leaves turn yellow. The leaves’ margins are double serrated, which means that there is a large pattern of serration along the edges of the leaves, and a second, smaller pattern of serration along the larger serration. They can be found to either side of the Fairfield Way entrance to the Homer Babbidge Library most notably, but are scattered all across campus. (Bonus: the Pine tree behind the River Birch to the left of the Library entrance is also an  Eastern White Pine!)

For more information on the many trees of the UConn campus, check out the Arboretum Committee’s webpage at arboretum.uconn.edu. They have a map of all the trees on campus, among plenty of other resources for the tree-curious. And if you’re curious about learning more Tree Identification in general, I cannot recommend Michael Wojtech’s BARK: A Field Guide to Trees of the Northeast and David Allen Sibley’s The Sibley Guide to Trees enough- they have beautiful photos/illustrations of every tree you might come across!  Thanks for reading!

Reflections and Advice from a UConn Senior

By Dana Chamberlain.

College was hard for me. I came in not really knowing what I wanted to do and am graduating still not fully knowing what’s next for me. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past four years at UConn, it’s that success isn’t linear. Some people enter college knowing exactly what they want to do, never change their mind, and end up happy in a successful career. Other people spend many years trying to figure out who they are and what they want to do, trying out a bunch of different paths until stumbling upon something they love. So, all of this is to say, you don’t need to know exactly who you are and what you want to do at 18 or even at 22. The most important thing is that you never stop learning or growing. Things will hopefully fall into place when you are honest with yourself about what you want in life and put in the work to get it.

 As I reflect on my time here at UConn, there are a few things I wish I fully understood earlier on. To the incoming first-year class, here are some things I wish I knew my first year:

 Mental health above all

I am no stranger to depression and anxiety. I know how hard it can be to get out of bed when all you want to do is sleep the day away or to work on an assignment when your mind is elsewhere. Trying to stay on top of your academics while maintaining friendships, participating in extracurricular activities, and worrying about your future can be really overwhelming and stressful.

At the end of the day, you are not a robot and can only do so much. It is so unbelievably important to put your mental wellbeing first. Take time each day to care for yourself and rest. Set boundaries when you can. If you have a ton of assignments all due on the same day and know you won’t be able to finish it all without depriving yourself of sleep, reach out to your professors to see if you can get a deadline extension. Or if you agreed to hang out with a friend on the weekend but are feeling drained after a particularly hard week, text them to see if you can hang out another time. Most people will understand as long as you communicate with them and are honest about when you think you can get things done.

UConn has quite a few resources to help you out too. You can reach out to SHaW-Mental Health for counseling services, the Dean of Students Office to receive extra academic support, and the Center for Student Disabilities to receive housing and/or academic accommodations to support any learning differences or different abilities you might be have. And don’t underestimate the value of a friend who is a good listener! You’re not alone and you will get through this! 

Grades are important, but not as important as you might think

Grades are important, so you should try to attend all class sessions, develop good study habits, go to office hours, make friends with your classmates, form study groups, and reach out to your professor with any concerns you might have. However, your grades don’t define you, and one bad grade isn’t the end of the world. It’s more important that you continue to improve throughout the semester and your college career and develop good relationships with your professors.

 If you’re worried about future jobs or graduate school, you can always explain why you received the grade you did in a cover letter or interview (whether it’s because you were attending to a personal issue or math just isn’t your strong suit, for example.) Also, having formed good relationships with your professor means that they can vouch for you when you need it. Ultimately, letters of recommendation speak louder than grades.

Get involved

I know that everyone says this, but it’s so important to get involved. College is supposed to be fun! Go to the Involvement Fair each semester and sign up for any and all clubs that interest you. I met so many cool people through attending club meetings and events. Getting involved helps you make friends, learn more about your interests, and feel connected to your campus.

Networking matters

I didn’t really understand how important networking was until my junior year. Job hunting can be rough. Sometimes a familiar face is all you need to get your foot in the door. So, develop good relationships with your professors, TAs, advisors, mentors, classmates, coworkers, etc. You never know who might know of a great opportunity for you or who can speak highly of you in spaces you don’t have access to.

Take risks

Be open to trying new things and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. I applied to a summer research program for undergraduates (REU) my freshman year on a whim and got in. Now, I’ve been doing research for three years, have had so many doors opened for me, and am planning on a career in research. You never know what could come from saying “yes!”

 UConn has a lot to offer. Reading “The Daily Digest” every day is a great way to find out about what’s happening on campus.

Be your own advocate

Last but not least, it’s important to be your own advocate. With so many students on campus, sometimes your professor or advisor won’t notice that you’re struggling. Ask for what you need. Reach out. Remember: closed mouths don’t get fed.

Limitless

By Soohyun Oh.

As a sophomore here at UConn, my life is filled with uncertainties. I like to think that I have my life and my future figured out, but quite frankly, I am not very sure if I do. This “college thing” came to me like a quick tsunami wave: from taking SATs in high school to being a sophomore in my spring semester. While some students might have already figured out their whole life plan, some might still be undecided majors who aren’t sure what they want to do after graduation.

I entered the University of Connecticut as an exercise science major and I had two possible plans: physical therapy or medical school. Exercise science was a familiar field to me. Like many exercise science majors, I was involved with sports throughout high school, and I was in an environment with a lot of rehabilitation work and physical therapy. For some reason, I wanted to go into the medical field. It was strange because I had no prior experience in the medical field except for hospital TV shows and documentaries which are often a misrepresentation of the realities of medicine. Maybe I was drawn to the white coats, their high social status, not to mention their high payroll. I had very little knowledge about both fields of physical therapy and healthcare, and that’s where the uncertainty developed and my anxiety kicked in.

However, with my experiences at UConn, I can turn my uncertainties into opportunities. As soon as I started my classes, I loved my major. The thing that I love the most about the major is the interdisciplinary course offerings and the flexibility. As a pre-medical student in exercise science, I am taking classes in hard sciences, kinesiology, nutrition, public speaking, psychology, and the list goes on. All these different courses allow me to gain knowledge in various science fields that are relevant not just to exercise science. The coursework is interdisciplinary, but they are also classes that I can apply in my daily life. Courses such as exercise prescription, nutrition, and principles of weight-training provide me with knowledge of exercise planning, nutrition management, and weightlifting. With these classes, I am also able to gain a small insight into what kind of work the physical therapists, nutritionists, and athletic trainers do.

In addition to the courses that help me get a sneak peek of what the fields entail, I also am able to expand my learning outside of the classroom through the College of Agriculture, Health & Natural Resources (CAHNR) itself. I can talk to the CAHNR faculty and professors about my interests. I’ve learned about the different types of physical therapists in addition to those working with athletes. Some physical therapists work with flight attendants, children, and horses (how cool is that!). I have also learned that physical therapy isn’t the only path you can take. I discovered you can continue in graduate school in biomechanics or exercise physiology to be in a research field and even work with companies like Nike or Hershey’s to develop their products. Also, with involvement in research, I can explore cellular and molecular biology, studying how various cell stresses can affect the development of organisms. Through research, I can learn lab techniques, data analysis, questioning, and problem-solving, all of which are necessary skills for graduate school.

One project that I and a colleague started recently with my principal investigator, Dr. Elaine Choung-Hee Lee, is the B.ethical project, which is a blog discussing the medical and scientific ethical issues to educate and bring awareness on the topic. The field of bioethics was something that I have never expected myself to be interested in and study. With this project, I expanded my knowledge on topics such as scientific data on women, racism and discrimination in scientific publications and experimental designs, microaggressions, health disparities in medicine and STEM professions.

When I started college, I expected my life to play out smoothly like a record player because now I am a “grown-up” in college studying a particular field. However, I was not in a place where I expected to be at this stage of my college career. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic put us, college students, into quarantine, limiting our learning opportunities inside and outside of school. Uncertainties and not having a set plan in your life can be scary and challenging and can make you anxious. However, not having a set path also means that your education is limitless: you are not bound in your learning. Through this learning process, I have gained more experience and knowledge about my fields of interests interested in order to someday soon decide on my future path. If your future is uncertain like mine, learn and explore, and you’ll find something that calls you!

ARE: My Major and Me

By Jigar Kapadia

Ever since I enrolled at UConn, balance has been one of my biggest mantras. Finding it has allowed me to experience a wide variety of opportunities, from networking with UConn alumni to embarking on field trips with UConn’s Wildlife Society. Likewise, I wanted my degree to to prepare me for the diverse array of situations the future will have in store. That is why I majored in Applied and Resource Economics or ARE for short. Majoring in ARE has prepared me to think analytically about problems in production, marketing and management within business firms through examples in natural resources and agriculture industries. The program grants a Bachelor of Science degree, and offers three main concentrations. I have taken courses that apply to each of the three, and all have enabled me to develop highly advantageous skills that I can carry forward into my professional life.

Business Management and Marketing will especially suit those interested in business. One course I took within this area, Computational Analysis in Applied Economics (ARE 3333), laid the foundation for me to analyze agricultural business problems and management decisions through Excel. Because of the course, I now know how to create formulas that minimize the amount of actual work needed in setting up a spreadsheet and get the necessary data I need faster. This skill in Microsoft Office and similar programs is key for communicating a presentation or data entries within a business environment. On top of this, the courses in the concentration help establish a strong understanding of consumer choices as well as profit and risk management, while also explaining how factors such as law and government policies have an impact on agricultural business decisions.

Environmental Economics and Policy is great if you are interested in legislation and the state of natural resources. This is especially true for Environmental and Resource Policy (ARE 3434), which lays out the history and procedures surrounding important environmental and natural resource issues like environmental quality, energy use, natural resource management, and valuation of natural resources. This information gave me a strong understanding how policies are crafted within the United States and provided an important context to answering these same issues in the future if I am part of a government agency or private business that provides services in sustainability, environmental, or natural resource areas.

The Developmental Economics and Policy concentration seeks to address issues like world hunger and poverty both domestically and internationally. I gained a better understanding about how national and international agricultural analysis is conducted in Food Policy (ARE 3260), while in Economic Geography (GEOG 2100), I was given a thorough overview of issues such as transportation and allocation of resources at the local, regional and global economic level. Both gave me the chance to apply techniques such as cost-benefit analysis and risk investment decision-making, which is key for careers in governmental policymaking as well as international organizations such as the World Bank and Save the Children.

ARE also offers 3 minors, including Business Management and Marketing along with Environmental Economics and Policy. The third option is Equine Business Management, which provides an overview of marketing, management, and financial principles in equine management. On top of this, there are opportunities to receive credit for approved internships and projects, which allows you to apply the knowledge from coursework to the real world. I had the chance to do so in the Farm Credit East Fellows Program through the Professional Internship Course (ARE 4991). Even though my experience was cut short due to the pandemic, it still provided an insightful opportunity into how a lending financial services provider such as Farm Credit East serves agriculture and natural resource-based businesses. Assignments given throughout the course simulated the tasks done daily within the firm, including determining the creditworthiness of borrowers, analyzing a company’s probability of defaulting, and evaluating real estate property value.

Thanks to the programs offered in Applied and Resource Economics, I have been able to balance my efforts into a specific set of skills and experiences that suit me best. Now I know how to be both analytical and constructive when it comes to information thanks to Business Management and Marketing. My time in Environmental Economics has made me more aware of how our natural resources are managed and maintained to suit our needs, and Development Economics and Policy has given me a better understanding of how logistical decisions are made here in America and abroad. These approaches, accompanied by hands-on internship experience, have set me up for a well-balanced career path as I look ahead to the world beyond college.

Searching for Stories in Unconventional Places and in Unconventional Ways

By Shaharia Ferdus.

Ever since I was a child, I loved stories. My mother would read me countless bedtime tales when I was young, and after I immigrated to America from Bangladesh, I often found myself buried in a book because it was easier to get lost in fantasy worlds with fictional characters than to confront the foreignness of my new home or the faces around me. Now as an adult, I am proud that I am at least a little braver than I once was. Years of forcing myself to reach out and get involved in my community and later on campus have made talking to people less difficult than it once was. Unfortunately, the busier schedule now also means that the natural bookworm in me has little time to get lost in a traditional book like before. So, I’ve had to be creative and search for stories in unconventional places and in unconventional ways.

Not everyone is meant to be a writer, that much is true. But in my time as a nurse aide (albeit only eight months), I have come to find that some of the best stories are told by ordinary people. As I work in a rehabilitation clinic, it is always exciting to watch patients who previously could not move, walk on their own again in a matter of weeks, thanks to therapy, a supportive network, and their own determination and effort. Hearing from some patients as they work to regain their capabilities is always inspiring, and I strive to be just as hardworking and optimistic as they are. But for other patients, there is no recovery, no return path to normalcy.

For these individuals, I cannot do much but be present and listen. It is actually one of the most rewarding aspects of my job and a privilege I hold dear because I am aware of how difficult it is to be vulnerable around strangers. But I have also come to appreciate how comforting it can be for them to open up to someone. The few minutes I take to ask patients about their day and listen to them talk about their families, their goals, their lives beyond the hospital, is just me being friendly. Not everyone cares, but for some, my efforts make enough of an impression that they recall our exchanges fondly whenever I come to see them. So in between tasks, I try to make time to talk to my patients. Whatever their prognosis is, I am thankful to be there for them. Even if I cannot do much to improve their overall condition, I can at least listen, and that itself can make all the difference to a patient’s outlook on their recovery.

Here at UConn, I deal with a different kind of story – that is, the story being told, and now actively being written by me, through research. Switching out a pen for a micropipette and a library for the NCBI database, I coauthor a mystery in which I am a detective. The mystery: how does the gut microbiome affect liver health? It’s a question that has come to dominate my research experience ever since I joined the Blesso lab in the Nutritional Sciences Department sophomore year, and one I am not sure I have the answer to as I prepare my honors thesis, nor one I expect to know the answer to even after graduation in May. It’s a frustrating situation getting insignificant results and not knowing the answer; I’m not used to not getting answers as a student. But as my PI reminds me time and again, this is an open-ended tale. As more evidence is compiled by many scientists across the world over time, the story will build, but the mystery itself may never be fully resolved. I still cross my fingers hoping that sooner or later, I will encounter an exciting detail that furthers the field tremendously. But for now, I’ve learned to be proud of my involvement (however small) in the development of this global story of human curiosity and intellect.

Being an ambitious full-time student leaves little time for reading books that are not the required course readings. Even if I found time to travel to the library, most are closed now anyways, thanks to the pandemic. But that has not stopped me from seeking out stories and feeding my inner bookworm. Whether happy or sad, complete or incomplete, I want to hear them all. But more importantly, I want to be a part of building those stories – stories of human ambition and achievement. The future is unpredictable and unwritten, but I am my own author, and this story will have a happy ending. “The End” (for now…)

Don’t Be Scared To Fail, Embrace It ‘Til You Succeed

By Matthew Barrios

As far back as I can remember, all I knew was that I had to push myself always to be the best. Not for myself, nor my friends or loved ones, but for my parents. Even though it may sound like a cliche, my parents have always been my heroes. They were immigrants who came to this country with nothing more than a 6th-grade education, an identification that only worked in Guatemala, and fifty dollars in their pockets. Since then, both of them were able to groom four children: my older sister (who is now a fully registered nurse in one of the best hospitals in New England), my 17-year-old little brother (who is already in line to get scouted by colleges), and my 12-year-old sister (who is becoming a prodigy in gymnastics). Lastly, there is me: the first child to ever move away from home, live at a major state university, and gain a spot in one of their most competitive majors on record. All of us wish to make our parents and loved ones proud, but one thing I learned while attending UConn was that I was scared to fail.

Becoming a part of the class of 2022 at UConn Storrs was a whole game changer. High school was too comfortable for me. UConn challenged me to jump out of my comfort zone. It was a bumpy transition into the common college student life, but eventually I got the hang of it. Still. I had this lingering fear of failing. Every semester got more challenging. Every class got more difficult and kept asking more of me bit by bit. Every night kept getting shorter, I started to run out of time to study and began to miss assignments. Freshman year, I wasn’t that scared because I had enough time on my hands that I could take multiple jobs and still get outstanding grades in my classes, yet it was always that fear of failing that kept crawling up my neck and taking over my body slowly, like a virus. One thing that I learned from attending UConn for the past two and a half years is that you shouldn’t be scared to fail.

Failure teaches you where your errors happened and how you can become better next time. Failure shouldn’t be our worst enemy; rather, it should be our teacher. Our teacher tells us to always pick ourselves up and prepare to tackle the problems ahead. We always mistake failure for the end, when in reality it’s giving up that takes away our second chance. We may fall, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re down for the count. There is still time to get back up and reach the finish line or score that goal or knock out that last study session to ace the final.

The most important lesson that I have learned, and am still currently learning, is that it’s okay to fail. It’s okay to get an unpleasant grade because, at the end of the day, it fuels your motivation for a second chance to correct it. A soccer player doesn’t get better by just practicing one free-kick; they get better by constantly missing until they finally find the right angle to make a goal 10/10 times. Because of failure, I am now within my third year of the four-year Landscape Architecture program with a promising internship while holding employment as a student tour guide at the Lodewick Visitor Center on campus as well as a Club Sports manager for one of my favorite sports, soccer. The university offers so many opportunities to discover who you wish to be or possibly become. I found myself more comfortable at one of the five culture centers on campus, the Puerto Rican Latin American Culture Center. There I became part of a community that later became my home away from home along with some other groups that gave me memories that I will never forget.

Seize the Opportunity

By Matt Anzivino

As a transfer student coming into UConn, I thought I had the next two years of my life all figured out. Because I transferred from a community college in New Hampshire, I didn’t know what UConn’s large school atmosphere was going to be like. Let me start off by saying this: deciding to attend UConn has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.  With aspirations of running my own veterinary hospital in the future, I knew UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources was the only college for me and animal science was the only major. Little did I know that my idealistic future and plan of study was going to change in the matter of months.

Matt and Claire

From placing third in “Little I” with my sheep Claire, to getting involved with lots of clubs and activities on campus, I felt happy with how my fall semester started off. About halfway through the semester, however, the workload really picked up. I felt a step behind everyone and didn’t know why the drive for my future was no longer there. It wasn’t until my evening biology lab that everything unfolded for me. My body completely shut down, and I fell unconscious for about two minutes. According to the ambulance EMTs, I couldn’t even remember my name en route to the hospital. I woke up in the hospital bed sweating from head to toe, just trying to wrap my brain around what happened to me.

All my thoughts and doubts about my first semester at UConn came to me that night in the emergency room. All the times I walked back to my dorm at one in the morning because I chose procrastination over productivity, all the meals I skipped to cram work, all the 8 am lectures that I didn’t attend—they all played a role in why my body decided to react the way that it did. College students shouldn’t have to experience what I went through. Everything I learned and changed from that day on wouldn’t have been possible without the doctors who made sure I was okay, as well as all the advocates who helped me adjust by changing my curriculum.

Weeks after the incident, I realized that I was pushing myself to do something that I didn’t truly want. I’ve loved animals my whole life and am passionate about them, but a part of me was yearning for a different future with animals. As a student always looking for the next best option, I wanted to venture into a different major. This time around one major and concentration stood out more than anything else: Natural Resources with a concentration in Fisheries and Wildlife. Now, as a natural resources major, I couldn’t be happier with my schedule. The goals I have in mind for my future is much stronger because I’m not a step behind; rather, I am a step ahead thanks to UConn’s prestige. Just three days after my seizure, I went to the rec center to play basketball. I took the opportunity to play because it’s easy to take for granted how much we work each day; just enjoying the moment put into perspective why I started playing in the first place.

Whether you’re transferring into UConn, or starting out as freshman, be open to new ideas, new people, even a new environment. Take time to really form meaningful relationships, especially with teachers, because more often than not they’re going to be your key to the next step in your life. Don’t forget the simple things like getting enough sleep, managing your time, having a concrete plan for each day, and asking for help when you need it.

I wanted to share this part of my life because it’s important to know yourself and why you wanted to be a part of Husky Nation in the first place. I encourage anyone who’s reading this to ask truly why you’re pursuing what you’re pursuing, and to remember always the people who helped you get there. I’m grateful to be at UConn, because what turned out to be a scary end to my fall semester last year, has turned out to be the reason I want to conserve our land and save endangered animals.  Whether it be on the ocean, in the forests, or locally, I know that I’ll be right where I need to be because events like this have shaped me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Experimenting with Undergraduate Research

by Olivia Corvino

I began my undergraduate career at the University of Rhode Island (URI), and it seemed that from day one I was told of the importance of joining a research lab. The advice I received sounded daunting. I was told to look up the research labs in my major and see if any of the descriptions match my interests, but as a freshman in college I did not yet know my interests.

I began with the professors who were right in front of me. They were an amazing resource not only for the research that they are doing in their labs, but they were also aware of the types of research that other professors were engaged in. I started the conversations by asking if they were taking undergraduate students to work in their labs. I would then ask them to explain what their research was like and if I would be able to shadow a member of the lab for a day. I got a good understanding of the overarching topic that the lab was researching, but was not always told what my responsibilities would be once I became a member. So, before shadowing I would prepare a list of questions to ask the student, including: “What would a typical day in the lab look like for me if I were to join this lab?” This gave me a better idea of what I would be doing each day and if it fit my interests and skillset. After this, I signed up for an independent study for the fall of my sophomore year.

In the meantime, I got an email from my department head at URI about a summer research opportunity run by the UConn Department of Nutritional Science and funded by the USDA called Bridging the Gap. I applied and was accepted, and spent the summer after my freshman year learning how to write a literature review, while many other members of the program got to be in labs with more hands-on work. It wasn’t until two years later that I realized how valuable learning that how to do a lit. review would be!

Returning to URI in my sophomore year, I joined a community-based nutrition lab. There, I met with a weekly focus group for people who had acquired neurological impairments, whether they were from a stroke, car accidents, Parkinson’s disease, etc. I delivered nutrition education to them through fun and interactive games and by providing a healthy snack. I would then draw their blood to measure their plasma lipids. As much as I loved participating in this weekly group, I knew that community nutrition was not what I was passionate about, and after my second semester in that lab I began looking elsewhere.

Over the next summer, I went home to the New Haven area and decided to see what local research opportunities I could find. I went online and looked up research labs at Yale University and sent out emails with my resume to the principal investigator (PI) of lab that captured my growing interests. After sending about ten emails, I finally received a “yes” reply! I spent that summer in a food science-based nutrition lab working with food, people, blood samples, and Excel, and learned to screen patients for research studies. Being in a food science lab only confirmed that community nutrition was not for me — I wanted something more hands on. However, food science didn’t completely fit either, so I continued looking.

Having decided by this time to transfer to UConn, I began emailing research labs at UConn during the summer, hoping to join one in the fall semester. Unfortunately, every PI had a full lab. Initially, I found having to take a break from research upsetting, but the right research experience is sometimes a matter of timing. That fall, I found a PI who would be my professor the following semester who had an opening in his lab. We met and I asked my role in the lab and he ensured me that I would be putting in minimal time and that undergraduate students do not do very much hands on work. This was not ideal, but I felt that any exposure was better than no exposure. Soon after meeting with that PI, Dr. Ji-Young Lee gave a guest lecture in one of my classes, and at the end of her presentation she mentioned that she was looking for undergraduate students for her bench-based research lab for the first time in years. Since I was still looking for a lab, I approached her at the end of her lecture to tell her that I was interested, and after meeting to go over what her lab entailed, I had to make a decision. I asked the opinions of peers, professors and advisors whether I should enroll in a labor-relaxed lab where I would still expand my knowledge or join a lab with a reputation of being intense. After some deliberation, I enrolled in an independent study with the more demanding lab for the following spring.

Dr. Lee’s lab surpassed my expectations for what being an undergraduate student in a research lab could mean, and I am happy to still be there today. Every day I am doing hands-on experiments, culturing my own cell line and performing real-time PCRs (Polymerase chain reactions). I have worked my way through six, nine and now twelve hours a week in the lab and even have my own lab bench and set of equipment. Since I was able to experience other forms of research, I can be confident in my love for this lab and have now made the decision to stay in this lab for a master’s degree.

If I were able to give advice to anyone currently looking to get involved in research, I would say, don’t worry about choosing the wrong lab! You never know until you try. Professors are very understanding and empathetic that you are looking for your best match. I was always uncomfortable telling my PIs that I was leaving their lab, especially future professors of mine, and each time I was met with encouragement and compassion. There is no wrong lab to spend time in because every research lab that you join gives you a new set of skills and a better understanding of the field as a whole. I have been a member of four research labs in my undergraduate career and it has not only expanded my breadth of knowledge, but also given me insight into my goals for the future.

My Internship

By Victoria Shuster

My internship was at Our Companions Animal Rescue and Sanctuary located in Ashford, CT, about twenty minutes from campus. I have always known that I wanted to work with animals, and when this opportunity came up, I knew I had to do it. While some students have to actively hunt down a place to intern (see From Puppies to Skinks: How Internships Shaped My Career Path), my process for getting this internship was pretty straightforward.  After receiving an email from the Animal Science Department, which forwards relevant opportunities to their majors, I contacted the owner of the rescue stating my interest. I was invited to fill out an application and schedule an interview. That day, I met with Lindsey, the volunteer and intern coordinator, took a tour of the facility, and landed the internship! Then I met with Dr. Milvae, one of the faculty members who coordinates internship credits in Animal Science, and set up my requirements so that I could receive college credit. Here’s my advice when it comes to finding and applying for an internship:

  1. Remember that transportation is key. Don’t let it discourage you, but if you don’t have reliable transportation, look for something nearby or wait until you can bring a car to campus. Also, remember to factor in transportation time — you don’t want to be late to an exam because roads were slippery or traffic was slow!
  2. Be professional. This should go without saying, but think of an internship like a job. Paid or unpaid, you still should make a good impression as an internship could lead to a job or at least a great recommendation one day.
  3. Find something you love or, at the very least, are interested in learning about. UConn requires at least two hours a week to receive one credit, so even though two hours doesn’t seem like a lot, it will if you hate the job you’re doing.
  4. Make sure you have the time. I originally signed up to do six hours a week, and then I remembered I was taking Organic Chemistry II and very promptly cut my hours. I was lucky to have a boss who didn’t mind me switching my hours around, but you may not be so lucky. Make sure you have thoroughly thought about the time commitment you are about to make before you sign on.

Our Companions Animal Rescue is  a unique facility. Each animal has its own personal room to create a home environment, allowing  animals that would never make it in a traditional shelter to thrive. I was an intern for the cat sanctuary. A lot of the job was cleaning and assisting staff with their daily duties, but once I was finished, I got to work very hands on with the cats. My main task was dealing with behavior. For the friendlier cats, this meant getting them used to having their paws touched, being loaded into carriers and getting wrapped in towels. For more skittish cats, my job was to socialize them and get them used to human touch. I was also able to help medicate the cats and shadow the vet when she came to the shelter once a week.

The internship taught me about shelter life, even though OC is different from typical shelters. I learned a lot about behavior and how to create positive, corrective experiences. It will be useful for me in the future as I plan to attend vet school in the fall of 2021. I enjoyed all of my time there and encourage everyone to visit/donate/volunteer or even follow in my footsteps and become an intern there.

Me, Myself and My Major

by Shawn Perry

In high school, I was asked constantly what career path I wanted to take. I needed to choose so that I could figure out which AP exams to take, what schools to apply to, and what extracurriculars I should be participating in. At 17-years-old, I was being asked to choose what I wanted to do for the “rest of my life.” It felt overwhelming.  Under this pressure and from everyone telling me I was good at science and math, I chose to major in engineering. This might have been a good fit for my skill sets, but I soon realized that my interests did not align with engineering. My freshman year classes seemed a bore, and I struggled to maintain interest in them. This made it really difficult to get good grades; still, I squeezed by.

When I told people that I was an engineering major they would often comment on how great it was that I was a girl in a male-dominated field or what a great career choice it was since I would make “good money” someday. I was scared to ever mention that I hated it. I noticed that the classes my nursing or pre-med friends were taking seemed so interesting to me, while I was stuck taking statistics and physics. My friends from other fields would tell me about the interesting facts they had learned about healthcare or the human body and these things would stick in my head. Meanwhile, I couldn’t manage to recall the Bernoulli Principle or Newton’s Laws no matter how many times I studied them.

When I finally decided to change my major, there was push-back — just as I had feared. While my parents were supportive of my choice, there were others who contradicted them. My advisor asked me a hundred times if I was sure, because if I switched out of engineering I could not come back. My friends, mainly engineering students, couldn’t understand why I would want to leave the field when they found it so interesting. Even random strangers would constantly remind me that engineering was a great field. Engineering is a great field. I couldn’t deny that. My doubts surrounded me, but I was drawn to something different.

The day I received my acceptance into the allied health sciences major, I felt a wave of relief. I knew then that this was the right choice. Yet even when I made it to the right major, my decision on a specific career was still up in the air. I wandered between optometry, physician assistant, nursing, physical therapy, among others. However, at this point I had at least found classes that got me excited, and school became easier as studying no longer felt like pulling teeth. I shadowed people in each area of interest. When I went to any doctor’s appointment, I would ask everyone I met how they liked their jobs. When I settled on nursing, I chose to become a nursing assistant. From here my doubts subsided as I encountered role models every day, including my mom as she switched between numerous nursing jobs within her career. I noticed the flexibility and range of opportunities that nursing provided her, and realized that this was a profession I felt excited to pursue.

The author with her big sister at work with Mom.

Now, when people ask about my major, many still remember when I was an engineering student. Some still ask why I would dare switch out of such a great major. Most of them, though, just tell me that nursing is also a great field. They tell me I am cut out for the profession and will do great following in my mom’s footsteps. While it has been a long journey, and I am still on the path to success in nursing, I feel that I am in the right place, finally. I am glad that I trusted my gut and didn’t allow the doubts of others and myself from letting me pursue the career for me.