Almost four years ago now, as an incoming freshman environmental science major, I had no idea what to anticipate for the years to come. I had no knowledge that undergraduate students could collaborate with professors on research in the hopes of publication. Luckily, due to Bryant University’s small science program and supportive professors, I was presented with the opportunity to work in the Laboratory for Terrestrial Environments under the tutelage of Professors Yang and Leng from my sophomore year until now.
The Laboratory for Terrestrial Environments has constructed a sound model for students to flourish and grow professionally in their program. As a sophomore with little previous research experience I spent the first year learning about the different laboratory technologies students and Professors use to conduct research. The Molecular Geochemistry Lab is equipped with Py-Gc-Ms (Pyrolysis-Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry).
In addition, I spent time attending hour long weekly lab meetings where each member of the laboratory presented on a published journal article. By listening to the presentations I garnered a better feel and understanding for the focus and research goals for the Laboratory for Terrestrial Environments. Research goals include understanding the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems, investigating forces and the impact of climate change using molecular carbon and hydrogen isotopes from modern and fossil plants and studying the process, mechanism, and impact of organic decay in environmental reconstruction.
From my sophomore year until now I have collaborated with Professor Leng on various research projects including establishing a herbarium for Bryant University and using the coexistence approach method to quantitatively reconstruct ancient climatic parameters by identifiable plant remains with NLRs (Nearest Living Relatives). In particular to conduct research for establishing a herbarium on Bryant University’s campus I worked in the Laboratory for Terrestrial Environments over the summer between my sophomore and junior year.
After students have successfully collaborated on research in the laboratory, most students attend and present their research at professional conferences. For example, most students from the Laboratory for Terrestrial Environments have the opportunity to present their research at the annual and regional Geological Society of America conference. Presenting at these conferences gives students valuable exposure to professionals in industries they may be interested in working for in their future career.
Students have opportunities to generate and explain empirical data they have collected (rather than working on data from second hand source). By working with Professors through the entire research process: proposing scientific questions, collecting data, interpreting results, reporting results, and writing for publication students gain interaction with graduate students, researchers, visiting international scholars and fellow undergraduate students. Lastly, students are able to stay concurrent in cutting edge research through weekly article readings and lab meetings.
Knowing what I know now as a senior, if I could have a do over with my time at Bryant University I would have attempted to enter one of the research laboratories as a freshman. These programs give you wonderful opportunities to share your interests with other students and faculty, learn about your field of study in a professional work environment, gain valuable skills and experience when presenting your work, and educating other undergraduate students on what research is about. Bryant University’s Department of Science and Technology has collaborative and supportive Professors who want to provide opportunities to help their undergraduate and graduate students as much as possible. Thank you very much to all of the Professors who made my research experiences possible.