Wes Hauser ’15 – Hello everyone! This summer I’ve been conducting research at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in Edgewater, Maryland. Here, I’ve been working on a series of projects in SERC’s Plant Ecology lab, whose senior scientist is Wabash alumnus Dr. Dennis Whigham. Additionally, I’ve spent the summer getting to know other interns and researchers from across the country with varied interests in science and environmental affairs.
My research endeavors at SERC have definitely taken me out of my comfort zone; my project is focused on characterizing the bacterial species associated with orchids and their symbiotic fungi. This has involved the implementation of methods with which I’ve had little to no prior experience such as DNA extraction, PCR and sequencing, fluorescent microscopy, seed germination experiments, fungi culturing, and sterile technique, to name a few. It’s been quite the project—you’ll have to check out my presentation at the Celebration of Student Research if I’ve piqued your interest! On another note, I’ve also had the opportunity to work on a variety of other projects that have caught my attention (and gotten me out of the lab for a spell!): I’ve tromped through wetlands sampling Phragmites australis for genetic analysis, studied species diversity of canopy gaps in SERC’s forests, and placed resin bags in nearby marshes to track ion concentrations. On the whole, it’s been a great experience so far—while this internship has certainly been a challenge (as most worthy enterprises are), I feel like I’ve developed so many valuable skills and grown significantly as a scientific researcher.
While I’ve gained lots of hands-on experience as a scientist this summer, I’ve also seen many opportunities for personal and professional development outside of the lab. Being associated with the Smithsonian Institution has allowed for several unique opportunities: I’ve attended the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall, received behind-the-scenes tours of the Museum Support Center, and participated in many activities sponsored by the museum’s extensions (such as the National Air and Space Museum, Zoo, and Natural History Museum, etc). I’ve also had many unique opportunities to explore the Washington D.C. and Annapolis areas since arriving for my internship. From going to a Nationals baseball game in D.C. to eating on the water in Annapolis with my new friends, the social opportunities provided by this internship have largely enriched my overall experience here this summer.
I’d like to thank the Wabash College Biology Department for funding my internship through the Norman E. Treves Fund. I would also like to thank my project advisers, Dr. Melissa McCormick and Dr. Dennis Whigham.