University of Vermont

Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory

Rubenstein Lab REU 2014 cohort

REU 2015 Cohort

Meet the REU 2015 Cohort and follow their experiences throughout the summer.

  • Introduction to Lake Champlain on the R/V Melosira

  • REU student Erin Keough (right) discusses fish acoustic telemetry with graduate student Tori Pinheiro.

  • REU students (left to right) Jessica Kane and Lexi Jones in the lab with graduate student Peter Euclide.

  • Graduate student Trevor Gearhart and REU student Teyana Adams methylating fish tissue for fatty acid analysis.

  • REU students Natalie Flores and Geoffrey Gray-Lobe work in the Rubenstein School computer lab.

  • REU students receive training on how to conduct face-to-face interviews to better understand public interest and knowledge of invasive species in Lake Champlain.

  • REU students Ben Ramcharitar (left) and Teyana Adams (second from left) conduct a survey at ECHO Lake Aquarium & Science Center on the public's knowledge and interest in invasive species.

Meet the 2015 REU Cohort

    • Teyana AdamsTeyana Adams
      School: Central State University
      Graduation year: 2018
      End of Week 10: These past 10 weeks have been absolutely incredible. When I finally got results I was so excited, it made me feel like my work wasn't in vain. To be honest this program is like a roller-coaster it has its ups and downs but in the end you're glad you did it. I know this REU has opened more doors for me and I'm incredibly thankful for that. Spending time in Vermont is nothing to sneeze at either. UVM is the most beautiful place on earth and to have such advanced technology is a plus too. I was right when I initially thought I would grow, however, I never expected to grow this much. I gained skills that my peers don't have, I created my own research poster, and I'm getting published later this year. There were many times when I felt like I wouldn't be able to finish my research and I was often frustrated. However, it all worked out and I had a beautiful poster to share my research. The REU program has been spectacular and I think everyone should have a chance like this.

      End of Week 5: Reaching the 5 week mark feels amazing. I’ve learned so much and done things that I never could before like extracting lipids, going on mountain hikes, and giving presentations. I’m gaining some serious lab skills that I know I will use in the future, and I’m learning how the science community works. Being so far from my family for the first time hurts, but this separation along with this opportunity has given me a chance to grow. Through all the different challenges within the program I have come to realize that I want to pick up another major. I’m unsure if it’s going to be nutrition or political science, but I’m positive that by the end of week 10 I’ll know. The REU program has given me so many opportunities and opened my eyes to so many things. I can see the big picture now and I love it.

      Start of Week 1: Being an upcoming sophomore in college, I came into the REU program relatively void of experience. Never in my life have I been in such a place with an environment that promotes research to this extreme level. I'm worried about getting overwhelmed and not being good enough because there are so many great minds here. I'm also nervous about the research because of my lack of experience. I expect to grow as a researcher, grow as a student, and grow as a person. I feel like when I am done with these 10 weeks I'll be a more rounded woman and be better suited for the real world even if I do decide that this is not the career path for me.
    • Katie BockwoldtKatie Bockwoldt
      School: Roanoke College
      Graduation year: 2015
      End of Week 10: This summer was one of the best learning experiences of my life. I learned so much about what doing research is like and what grad school is liked. I feel like now I'm going to be able to make much more informed decisions about my future because of my experiences here and my interactions with mentors and grad students. Everyone here at UVM was so supportive of the program and were always such a big help. I definitely recommend this program, or any REU in general, to any undergrads interested in grad school. It is a great experience.

      End of Week 5: We are now halfway through the summer and the progress on my project is going well! There was quite a steep learning curve with R, but it definitely just took some patience and practice. I’m now having at least some success with R every day and producing plots that I am proud of. Granted, these graphs probably aren’t anything groundbreaking, but I’m just proud of myself for learning R and making progress.
      I still have a long way to go until the end of the summer though. My research is divided into three stages (nutrients vs. time, nutrients vs. phytoplankton, and phytoplankton vs. zooplankton) and I have just completed the first stage regarding nutrient change over time. This stage is definitely the easiest stage, so I definitely expect some more R struggles in the future. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work through the issues like I have in the past. I am definitely optimistic about these next five weeks and can’t wait to see what kind of interesting results I have at the end of the summer!


      Start of Week 1: Going into this summer, I am both excited and nervous. To begin, I am so excited to be living in Vermont for the summer because it is beautiful state with a great culture and many great outdoor activities. I cannot wait to explore Burlington, Lake Champlain, and the Green Mountains during our free time over the next ten weeks. Furthermore, I am incredibly excited because this is such a great research opportunity and will certainly be a wonderful learning experience. I am going to be working with some great people here at UVM and I am hoping that working with them will both inspire me and help guide my future.
      Although I am excited for many reasons, I also am rather nervous about the research. Leading up to my arrival here, I had been doing some background research on my area of study and reading a book on R. Through this, I have become more comfortable with the topic of eutrophication and how it relates to phytoplankton and zooplankton populations but am certainly no expert and must say the same with R. I have completed the book, but I do not feel comfortable yet because I haven't used our data in R yet to graph any relationships. However, I am confident that I will become more comfortable with the topic and R when I begin working on the research on a daily basis. By the end of the summer, it is my goal to have successfully completed this project and to be able to use R well so that I can take those skills to grad school. I am looking forward to the rest of my time here in Vermont, and I hope we all have an amazing summer!
    • Natalie FloresNatalie Flores
      School: California State University - Sacramento
      Graduation year: 2015
      End of Week 10: Wow! I can't believe it is already time to go home. I had an amazing experience here at UVM and I am going to miss everyone so much. I have learned so many valuable life lessons, from how to communicate with mentors to how to present a scientific poster. I have grown a lot these last two months. I feel like I am well prepared for my future endeavors (as well as anyone can be). I also feel that I can keep in contact with my mentors and other cohort members if I need any advice in the future. I hope I will find myself in Vermont again in the future and will definitely recommend this program to other students.

      End of Week 5: I can’t believe we’re already half way through the program. So much has happened in these last five weeks. During the weekdays I work hard on my project. I have already gotten a lot of work done. On the weekends I spend my time with the other REU students, either hiking or going to Church Street and the downtown area. This weekend we celebrated 4th of July on the waterfront and enjoyed an amazing fireworks show. I have met a lot of my expectations so far, including getting to know the town and making great memories with those around me. I have been learning useful laboratory and research skills, and I hope to continue making the most of my time in my remaining weeks here.

      Start of Week 1: I am extremely excited to have the opportunity to work at University of Vermont this summer with the wonderful faculty, staff, and students. I have expectations for my stay in Burlington, as well as those associated with my REU experience. This is my first time really being on my own. I hope that I will quickly be acclimated to the town and the bus system, so that I can easily find my way around. I want to have a great time this summer and make lasting friendships and memories with those around me. In terms of my expectations of the REU, I hope that I will learn firsthand what it is like to conduct research, as well as creating a presentation and writing a research report. I would like to learn useful life skills from my mentors, such as learning to keep and maintain a research notebook, learning to talk to mentors that I would like to work with/do research under (such as in applying to graduate school), and learning what life is like as a professor and mentor. I hope that my mentors will be available for me to ask questions and that they can inform me about potential career options. I am sure I will develop questions and more goals along the way. In the mean time, I am looking forward to learning more about the University of Vermont, Lake Champlain, and the people that I will be working with for the next couple of months.
    • Rachana GhimireRachana Ghimire
      School: Washington and Lee University
      Graduation year: 2017
      End of Week 10: I can’t believe the UVM REU is over! The time went by so quickly. At the end, everything came together nicely. These past two weeks have been some of the most stressful but also the most satisfying. I created all ten of my maps, a compiled map, and I looked at treatment costs for hydrilla, Asian clam, and quagga mussels. Though I didn’t get as much done as I originally anticipated, I feel very proud of the end result of my ten weeks. I have made unforgettable memories here, and I will always treasure my time in Vermont. I’m going to miss everyone here, especially the cohort and our terrific mentors. I feel like I got so much out of this opportunity that it’s hard to put it all into words. This has definitely been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I’m really grateful that I was able to do this. It’s a bittersweet feeling, but I’m hoping I get to come back to the beautiful state of Vermont again. As for research side of things, though it can be frustrating at times, the feeling you get after everything is completed is amazing, so I’m going to continue exploring my options. Jason, Michael, and Beth have been so helpful throughout this whole program as well as other mentors, and I’m happy to know that if I ever have any questions – there are people that are willing to answer. Not only did I gain research experience that will help me in the future, but I gained lasting friendships, wonderful guidance, and eye-opening experiences. All in all, not a bad way to spend a summer!

      End of Week 5: Halfway into the program, I’m asking myself if graduate school is what I want to do right after graduation, or if I should explore more before heading to graduate school. The dessert seminars we have with mentors are really helpful and insightful, and they have shown me that where you end up isn’t really the straight path that you originally envision. All of the mentors had twists and turns in their stories of how they ended up where they are now, which is comforting because I’m not really sure what I want to do at this point. My research has been going all right, albeit a little slow. I haven’t really delved into GIS since my second week here, and I’ve mainly been doing literature searches for habitat characteristics of invasive species and economic impacts of invasive species. I’ve compiled a spreadsheet so once the Lake Champlain Basin Program picks the species that they want risk analysis maps for, I’ll be ready to make the maps. I’ve been looking for data that I could use online as well as e-mailing people to see if they could send me their data. I think this process is definitely teaching me patience, and I’m realizing that research doesn’t go as quickly as you imagine for a lot of factors outside your control at times. I’m hoping to start on my risk analysis maps next week though for 10 species and hopefully get that done in a week or a week and a half, and then transition to looking specifically at 3 species and economic impacts. But enough about the research side of things! Burlington has been absolutely fabulous, and the time I’ve spent with the cohort has been wonderful! We do weekly family dinners on Sunday which is something to look forward to, and we usually do something fun on the weekends as well. I’m really enjoying my time here, and meeting so many people with different stories. This experience has already taught me a lot, and I think I’ll come out of this a lot more confident than I was coming into it.

      Start of Week 1: I'm very excited about this REU, but I also feel a bit nervous. I haven't done research before, so it's going to be a whole new experience. I'm an environmental studies and economics double major, so my research topic, "economic and ecological impacts of invasive species in Lake Champlain," fits really well with what I'm interested in. I know that I'll be using GIS, which is something that I've never done before, so I'm hoping that I will learn a lot. I'm not completely sure how my research will go, and what I'll end up doing exactly, but I hope to try out new things in order to figure out where my interests lie. Environmental studies at Washington and Lee University approaches the major with an interdisciplinary approach, so it will be nice to have this experience to broaden my knowledge about the field. All in all, I'm thrilled to have this opportunity to do research and get a feel for what it's like, but I'm also a tad anxious to be trying something new. I haven't taken many science classes, so learning how to do scientific writing will definitely help me later on, especially with my desire to do graduate level studies. I think my confidence will grow as a result of this research opportunity, and I'll be better equipped for what I want to pursue in the future. I'm hoping that it'll be a great summer, and it'll help me pursue my goals later on!
    • Geoffrey Gray-LobeGeoffrey Gray-Lobe
      School: Augustana College
      Graduation year: 2017
      End of Week 10: My experience with the Lake Champlain REU was everything that I had hoped it would be. Early on I realized that there were more resources and opportunities available to me than I could possibly exhaust. I therefore considered the amount of effort that I was willing to invest to be the limiting reagent determining how much I could get from the program. Spending long hours in the lab, challenging myself daily to learn new skills, reaching out to and making connections with faculty and students – all these extra efforts yielded enormous benefits to me personally and professionally. Ten weeks flew by much too quickly and it was difficult to leave the Rubenstein lab when the last day rolled around. I am very pleased that I was able to make arrangements with my mentor to allow me to continue working on my project in the coming months. There’s a real possibility that the end result of this collaboration could be the publication of my research in a peer-reviewed journal before the end of my junior year. This is a thrilling goal to strive for and one which I feel well prepared by my experience this summer to achieve.

      End of Week 5: I think I can best describe the first five weeks of this program as “research boot camp”. I’ve been pushed to my limits and at times been unsure whether I could achieve all that is expected of me. Sometimes I feel that I’ve been thrown in the deep end as I strive to work productively alongside graduate students and post-docs on my own research project. But I can see now that the amount of independence I’ve been given has been instrumental in allowing me to rapidly develop the basic skills of a research scientist. And when I’ve needed assistance, instruction, or any other form of support it has been readily available. I am deeply grateful to my mentor not only for providing direct input and resources but also for connecting me with a vibrant community of bright and energetic fellow researchers who daily impress me with their generous sharing of skills and knowledge.

      Start of Week 1: My first two years of undergraduate coursework have explored a considerable breadth of material but have thus far presented limited opportunities to dive really deeply into specific topics. I hope that this project provides an introduction to the sort of deep, focused study that characterizes professional research. The faculty, staff, and fellow interns I have met so far are, without exception, bright, welcoming, and excited to share their knowledge and experience. I expect that conversations and collaborations with them will present opportunities for interdisciplinary exploration and provide rich context for my work. I am looking forward to a challenging and productive summer.
    • Lexi JonesLexi Jones
      School: Wesleyan University
      Graduation year: 2017
      End of Week 10: The past ten weeks have flown by and its hard believe the program already is coming to a close! This summer has certainly had its ups and downs, but I am so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had. I have received so much help and support throughout the program and I have met so many incredible people. The last week has been especially frantic, as we had to finish creating our zine, submit our posters, present our posters at the symposium, and finish packing. However, it was also the most rewarding. It was amazing to see how everyone’s projects, including my own, came together! I have learned so much this summer and I look forward to applying all the skills I have learned to future endeavors.

      End of Week 5: The past five weeks have flown by. It's hard to believe that the program is almost half way over! This past week has been especially exciting, as my survey on pharmaceutical contamination finally got approved by the Institutional Review Board. I am very excited to start getting responses and analyzing my data. I have really appreciated the amount of independence and control I have had over my project, although at times it is very daunting. I have definitely gotten a taste of what research is like, however, at this point I am still unsure whether I want to attend graduate school and commit to pursuing a career in research. In the coming week, I will hopefully start my Daphnia experiment. I am excited to explore the biological side of my project, which will potentially provide me with more clarity in terms of graduate school.
      One of my favorite parts of the program has been the weekly dessert seminars, in which mentors come talk to us about how their career paths, are one of the most helpful parts of the program. It is fascinating to hear how many different paths the mentors have taken to get to where they are today. Some mentors have been driven by passion for a subject, others by the desire to answer a question that is deeply important to them, others by stubbornness. It is also a relief to be assured that I do not yet need to know what career path I want to follow. I look forward to the remaining five weeks of the program and whatever adventures they may hold!


      Start of Week 1: The past few days have been pretty crazy between driving up to Burlington, moving in, and facing the cold, rainy weather, but I am finally getting settled in! I am really eager to start my research this summer on pharmaceutical contamination in Lake Champlain. I am hoping to learn a lot more about environmental policy, as I am very interested in the relationships between scientific research and social change, and I have not had the opportunity to study any sort of policy at my home institution. I am also hoping to spend a lot of time in the lab and perhaps even conduct some fieldwork. As a biology and sociology double major, it is super exciting to be part of an interdisciplinary program that allows me to explore both sociology and biology! I can't wait to hear about other students' projects and learn how to better integrate different fields of science. Finally, I am super excited to explore the Burlington area and can't wait to see what other adventures this summer will hold!
    • Jessica KaneJessica Kane
      School: University of New England
      Graduation year: 2017
      End of Week 10: Today is a very bittersweet day- it is our last day of the program! While I am very excited to be wrapping up my work from this summer (the poster symposium went very well), I am sad to be leaving Burlington and I certainly don’t want to say goodbye to my new friends and all of the mentors. I will be taking away so many memories, skills, and professional relationships from this experience that I am very grateful for. I hope to stay in contact with everyone that I met here! In the few weeks I have left before the new school year begins, I am looking forward to writing up my final manuscript and submit it to be published in some form. I hope to even present my poster at a conference in the future! It is motivating to know that, even after the program ends, there will be many opportunities for me to expand upon the skills I developed this summer and to share my work. Without a doubt, I would recommend this program to any student interested in exploring scientific research as a potential career!

      End of Week 5: While it’s hard to believe that we are already halfway through the program, I realize that I have made significant progress in my research in these fleeting weeks! This past week in particular has been the busiest, and most rewarding, week I’ve experienced yet. I finally began to set up my experiment to collect data next week. Although I originally expected to have my data already collected and ready for analysis at this point in the program, I am grateful to have had so much control over my project. From developing my research question to designing my methods, my mentor has encouraged me to explore these processes on my own while still offering her insightful advice and support. While I have been working fairly independently, I have learned that asking others for help is essential to my success as a researcher. It seems as if everyone that I speak to about my experiment, whether it’s a mentor, another student, or even a complete stranger, often has a brilliant idea or suggestion about how I can improve my methods. The more people I collaborate with, the stronger and more valid my experiment becomes. I am eager to see what my experiment has in store for me through data collection and analysis and hope that I will be able to achieve all of my goals before this program comes to an end!

      Start of Week 1: Although I have had previous experience in research, I hope that the REU program will lend me a new perspective on the interdisciplinary nature of science. Developing a project concerning pharmaceutical contaminants in Lake Champlain will be the perfect opportunity for me to integrate my interest in ecology and animal behavior with my aspiration to learn more about the social sciences. I believe that I have a lot to learn from my knowledgeable mentors, as well as my peers, about research techniques, ethics, and issues in unfamiliar fields. The policy aspect of my project seems daunting to me at this point in my REU experience, however I know that my apprehension will vanish when I become more immersed in the program. As of right now, I just can't wait for it to stop raining!
    • Madeline KelseyMadeline Kelsey
      School: Salisbury University
      Graduation year: 2016
      End of Week 10: Having gone through the UVM REU program in its entirety I feel satisfied with what I learned and accomplished this summer in my research. Though the last few weeks of the program were fairly stressful, seeing the final poster after printing and having the opportunity to discuss my research at the symposium was very rewarding. This experience has taught me so much about conducting research from the start to finish of a project and I now feel confident in my ability to design, develop and conduct research projects in the future. Reflecting on everything that we have accomplished over the course of the summer I feel that this program has gone above and beyond meeting my expectations and I feel incredibly grateful for everyone who has aided me in my research. I am excited to continue working on this project as I write my final manuscript and I am hopeful to have similar science translation research opportunities in the future.

      End of Week 5: It’s surprising to me how quickly the first five weeks of the REU program have gone by. I have learned so much already about the nature of research and possible options for the future and I am excited to continue learning from all the individuals I have had the opportunity to work with on this project. The more I learn the more confident I have grown in my abilities to produce a final product at the end of the summer and meet the expectations of those I am working with. I am nervous about the amount of time we have left and completing my project by the necessary deadline but I also know that it can be done. While my expectations for myself have remained relatively stable since the beginning of the summer I also now expect to have a better sense of what path I would like to pursue after receiving my undergraduate degree. Overall, participating in this program has been an exciting, eye-opening experience so far and I am looking forward to the next five weeks.

      Start of Week 1: Participating in the 2015 University of Vermont REU program, I expect to learn more about science communication research from my mentors and the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center staff. Over the course of the summer, I plan to aid the ECHO Lake Aquarium team with the primary goal of designing, administering, and analyzing a survey to determine the extent to which the public understands and has interest in the invasive species present in Lake Champlain. Working on this project, I also expect to learn how to conduct research that produces meaningful data from which conclusions about science communication can be drawn. I expect to learn how to formulate effective survey questions, analyze both quantitative and qualitative data, and construct a professional report of my findings. Working with the ECHO team specifically, I expect to learn new presentation and public speaking skills, and I hope to gain a better understanding of the role aquariums and science centers play in informing the general public of important scientific and environmental issues. Aside from learning experiences that will present themselves in my own work, I am very much looking forward to the opportunity to learn more about topics I am less familiar with from the other REU students as we assist each other in developing these projects.
    • Erin KeoughErin Keough
      School: Saint Michael's College
      Graduation year: 2018
      End of Week 10: I have just completed the 10-week Lake Champlain REU program and I can say that the past two and a half months have absolutely flown by! This was the most challenging yet rewarding academic experience I have had thus far. Having come into this program with no prior research experience, I didn’t know what to expect, but knew that my skills were about to be tested. There were many ups and downs throughout the summer, but overall I would say that working among faculty mentors, my undergraduate peers and countless other helpful resources has helped me to dramatically improve both my critical thinking and research skills. The most important lesson that the REU has taught me is that there are many different paths that will lead you to the same place; you may surprise yourself and veer off of your original course to find a favorable alternative for you. I would absolutely recommend this program to a dedicated undergrad in the future.

      End of Week 5: We have just completed Week 5 of the summer REU program and, needless to say with my lack of prior research experience, my views of the program have shifted dramatically since Week 1. Going into the summer, I knew that my project was very data-oriented and would not entail very much field work; however, I have been fortunate enough to be included in various work days in the field. This has been incredibly eye-opening and has allowed me to get a hands-on approach to my project to see how the results that I have been observing through data analysis were achieved. Another aspect of the program that has taken me by surprise to a certain degree is the diversity of the projects amongst the REU students. I feel that I have been expanding my horizons and learning so much about different issues on Lake Champlain from conversations with my fellow students, rather than simply focusing in on my own studies. All in all, I am enjoying the research work environment as much as I had hoped and as I progress with my project, I am becoming increasingly intrigued by what I may find next. This, in addition to the bonds that this program has promoted, has made me all the more excited to advance in the Lake Champlain REU.

      Start of Week 1: Upon hearing the news that I was accepted into the Lake Champlain REU, I was elated to say the least, however I could not fail to recognize the nagging sense of concern that accompanied my lack of prior research experience. Nonetheless, I came into the program with nothing but optimism and an open mind, and I soon discovered that my fellow undergrads and I share roughly equivalent experience with research in the fields about which we are truly passionate — and learning of this has calmed my nerves exponentially and instilled in myself a better sense of confidence. Throughout the ten weeks of the program, I expect to be dedicating my time and effort to not only picking up new research techniques and learning how to work with more complex equipment than those to which I am accustomed, but also to rigorously working hands-on, both in the field and in the lab, with my project of habitat fragmentation of walleye in Lake Champlain. Although the concept of conducting research in my field of study seems daunting now at the start, I feel confident in the challenge with which I will be faced this summer. All in all, I can say that I am more than excited to begin relevant work that will assist in my future decisions pertaining to the path down which I will travel in my academic career.
    • Benjamin RamcharitarBenjamin Ramcharitar
      School: Middlebury College
      Graduation year: 2017
      End of Week 10: The title of the program “Research Experience for Undergraduates” has lived up to its name. I have received a research experience in biogeochemistry and have learned many new field, lab, data handling, and analytical skills (many of them specific to biogeochemistry). Coming in as a biology major, this experience has pushed me towards the paths of chemistry and geology. This was excitingly unexpected and I cannot wait to broaden my knowledge in the sciences beyond biology. I learned to code R and Java to explain my project to the scientific community and public using different mediums and ended up making final products I was proud of. I have also learned how to explain findings in a clear and concise way—something I had struggled with before I arrived. This experience has raised more questions than it has answered; one of them being that questioning and being skeptical is not a bad thing.

      End of Week 5: In the past five weeks I have heard the many struggles and accomplishments of REU mentors and cohort members. These have humbled me and will aid me in living the lifestyle I want to lead. I am also finally getting comfortable with my project. Now that we have gone through two full cycles of data collection I can seamlessly work on any part of this cycle independent of my mentor. Now that I have gotten fairly acclimated to the field and lab work of my project I am finding time to draw conclusions and make sense of the data we are collecting.

      Start of Week 1: During the Lake Champlain REU program I hope to discover my interest in research and to gain a sense of connectedness within the greater scientific community and my cohort. At the end of this experience I aim to find out whether I am interested in ecological research or not and if I am, what sub-discipline most interests me. In this process, I hope to also identify whether graduate school in the natural sciences is the right choice for me. I hope that this program will also connect me to persons in the scientific community (both my peers and professors). I want to be inspired by and garner a feeling of belonging to the scientific community with these connections. Most importantly, I hope that this experience challenges me to think critically, to be skeptical, and to have a better appreciation for how the earth operates.

Last modified September 04 2015 10:08 AM