In Fall 2017, I took Entering Research I, a required elective for the LIFE STEM program.
Entering Research I (ERI) is a course that is exclusively for LIFE STEM students and it is the most crucial part of the first year experience for LIFE STEM. This class was designed to introduce us to scientific research both at Longwood and in the real world. We did assignments to in order to comprehend and analyze scientific literature. We also did assignments to get to know the research being done at Longwood while meeting research faculty. The major assignment of this class was the research paper that we worked all semester long on. Over the course of the semester, we broke down the components of a research paper and we learned about the expectations of writing each section. The research we were doing related to the LIFE STEM Summer Bridge at the Chesapeake Bay. A major component of the trip was collecting a variety of samples and sample types along the week in order to analyze the health of the Chesapeake Bay. In class, we were divided into groups based on sample type. For instance, there was a group researching dissolved oxygen levels, chlorophyll levels, and microplastics in the water of the Chesapeake Bay. For my group, we did research on the sediment in the water. The complete research paper is the artifact I chose for this class because it was what we were building up to all semester and it symbolizes the largest amount of work that was put into the class. I am really proud of this work because this is my first example of science writing, which represents me growing into my major and feeling successful in LIFE STEM.
I loved this class because I got so much out of it. I learned truly what being a scientist was because we were learning how to read, think, and write like a scientist. As a scientist in training, I absolutely needed this class because it was able to provide me with the tools to feel like I was not only “catching up” as a science student but accelerating past the experience level of typical science freshman. As I mentioned in my Biography, being a scientist was not a career path I had ever considered before applying for college, so my mindset going into college wasn’t oriented in the way that someone else might be who has known they wanted to be in the science field since they could remember. I was insecure that I wasn’t going to “understand” scientific literature and being the only person who was lost when everyone else in the class understands. I was nervous that Environmental Science might have been the wrong choice, but because of ERI, those fears disappeared. This class helped me hone the proper skills I needed step by step and I feel like I am way better off than non-LIFE STEM science majors at my level. This class was the push I needed to thrive as a science major and it reassured me that this is what I want to be doing at Longwood.