University of Vermont

Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory

Rubenstein Lab REU 2014 cohort

REU 2016 Cohort

Meet the REU 2016 Cohort and follow their experiences throughout the summer.

  • 2016 REU students at the lakefront.

  • Damien collecting water sample at Shelburne Pond.

  • Jeni and Shannon helping set up Jess' experiment in the lab.

Meet the 2016 REU Cohort

    • Meyru BhantiMeyru Bhanti
      School: Clark University
      Graduation year: 2018
      End of Week 10: Ten weeks seems like a long time when you look at a calendar. 1,680 hours is no small commitment, but in the world of research it’s just a blink of an eye. I am very thankful that I have been able spend my summer with such a supportive program. Throughout all of the bumps and frustrations of research I have had caring and dedicated guidance. My research has solidified my interest in environmental science. As I move forward I have a more clear understanding of the scientific process, and have gained the confidence to navigate future academic spaces. This was a one of kind experience that I will carry with me for a long time.

      End of Week 6: It's hard to believe we have only three weeks left! In the past six weeks I have learned so much about navigating independent research. It’s been really fun having an opportunity to learn about soil enzymology because my school doesn't have any such classes. Also, the workshops we have every week really get us thinking about the future. It's so nice to not be alone as I try to figure out what the next step is for my education and to have a network of friends going through the same thing I am. I've been extra fortunate because I have had the opportunity to work with others in my cohort while my soils incubate. I've been exposed to a lot of different techniques and really love how this REU emphasizes collaboration and interdisciplinary science.

      Start of Week 1: I'm really excited to be here but to be honest I'm a bit overwhelmed by the opportunity to create my own project. Luckily my mentor is very helpful and I have gotten a lot of support from everyone here. I'm excited to learn more about Lake Champlain through my project and through other students' projects. It's great to be in an environment where everyone has similar interests in the environment and yet approach issues from many different angles.
    • Carson BickleyCarson Bickley
      School: Indiana University
      Graduation year: 2017
      End of Week 10: The Lake Champlain REU program has been a great experience. It allowed me to meet a group of great students and scientists and become a part of the scientific community. I believe the molecular and environmental skills I have gained in this program will help me to serve health and the environment. For instance, I previously had no experience with environmental science skills and techniques. The techniques I have learned during this program, such as bacterial filtration from water and DNA extraction, will help me in my future work in the growing field of microbial ecology. Also, I think the skills I have developed in this program will help me to excel in graduate school. I have learned a great deal about communicating my science through presentations, writing, and visual media. In addition, I have learned how to communicate with research mentors and cohorts more clearly and directly. Overall, I have greatly enjoyed the Lake Champlain REU program and the time I spent here will be very valuable going forward.

      End of Week 6: I have greatly enjoyed the Lake Champlain REU program so far. I have made a lot of friends that I am very glad I had the opportunity to meet. When I began the program, I was worried that I might have difficulty applying my experience with bacterial genetics. However, I have thus far been able to apply and build on my experience with molecular techniques. In addition, I have gained experience with environmental science techniques including sample collection, water filtration, and DNA extraction. I did not have any environmental science experience before this program, and I have enjoyed exploring a field that I was unfamiliar with. The reason I initially found this project so interesting was that it seemed similar to what I ultimately want to do. My career goal is to apply my experience with bacterial genetics to a public health problem. I think the molecular and environmental skills I am gaining in this program represent a step forward towards me reaching my goal and using my scientific experience to serve health and the environment.

      Start of Week 1: My time at the Lake Champlain REU program is off to a great start. All of the students and staff seem friendly and supportive, and I think I will be able to find help during the summer if I need it. My only worry about starting research is that I might have difficulty transferring my experience with bacterial genetics. While I have worked a lot with sequencing and genetic manipulation, working with a different species of bacteria often requires that techniques be altered to maintain their effectiveness. But despite this minor worry, I expect the REU will be an excellent experience for growth and learning.
    • Ali FilipovicAli Filipovic
      School: Clark University
      Graduation year: 2017
      End of Week 10: It is unbelievable to me that the end of the program has arrived. Looking at everyone else’s posters at the symposium, it is clear that everyone worked hard all summer, and I am so proud of everything we have accomplished. My project went well and I’m hoping to continue working with my mentor. I feel that I have improved my GIS and modeling skills, as well as research in general, which I am very thankful for. I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone that I have worked with. Jason, Michael, Brian, and the rest of the cohort have been so supportive throughout the summer. I can’t imagine this summer without each one of them, and I am so happy I got to know everyone on both a research and personal level. Overall, I would say the summer has been a success, and I am glad I chose to spend my summer participating in this program.

      Start of Week 1: I am very excited to be participating in the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Lab’s REU program for the summer of 2016. These last two days have been a flurry of meeting people, moving in, and familiarizing myself with the campus and Burlington. But as I think about my first day of work with my mentor tomorrow and the coming weeks, I can’t help but think about all of the exciting things to come. I can’t wait to improve my GIS/remote sensing skills, as well as to learn methods of modeling and database management. Another thing to come out of this experience that I think will be interesting is interacting academically and socially with the rest of the cohort. We have such diverse academic interests and so much knowledge to bring to the table that I am sure I will learn a lot about many different topics and perhaps incorporate that knowledge into my own project.
    • Alexandra GibbsAlexandra Gibbs
      School: Appalachian State University
      Graduation year: 2019
      End of Week 10: I am really glad that I had this experience. My mentor, Eric Roy, was very hands on and involved in my research. Though these weeks were very intense and at some points frustrating when instruments don’t want to work with you, they have taught me that research is not an easy process but it’s very rewarding. I believe that I have made some lifelong friends and connections through this program.

      End of Week 6: Now that I am halfway thought the program I feel much more confidence in my research abilities. I have learned many new skills that I am confident that will help me in further research. My favorite part of the program outside of my own research is shadowing my peers in the REU because it gives insight into the areas of research that I would not normally get to see. This program has helped me grow as a researcher and as a leader in the laboratory setting.

      Start of Week 1: I am currently a rising sophomore with little research experience but I have an eagerness to learn and grow as a scientist and as a person through this program. I hope to get experience and skills out of this REU program that I can use throughout my career in the science field. Though I consider myself to be an ambitious person, I am still a bit intimidated academically by all of the students as they are all older than me and have taken more advanced classes. But I believe that my love for science and dedication to any project that I work on will help me push though my nerves and succeed in this program.
    • Jessica GriffinJessica Griffin
      School: University of Connecticut
      Graduation year: 2017
      End of Week 10: I have found this research experience to be enriching educationally and personally. I have found that my skills in statistics have been improved in recent weeks through learning the basics of the statistical program R. Also, I have gained experience in lab microscopy, field collection of invertebrates, experimental design, and scientific writing. In addition to working on my project, I have learned through the activities provided via our weekly seminars. My favorite activity was the art and science assignment, in which each student created a painting or infographic to communicate their project to the public. This project helped me further understand my peer’s research as well as helping me develop my own. I plan to move forward with my project by pursuing possible publications, and hope to continue to learn more about research in aquatic ecology throughout this process. I am excited to continue to work with my mentor and to explore the implications of my results. This research experience has been intensive, challenging, and rewarding, and I hope to carry the skills I have gained here forward into my education and career.

      End of Week 6: My experience with the Lake Champlain REU has allowed me to further refine my research skills and to better understand what path I would like my career to take. I have run into several obstacles while working on my project, each of which has allowed me to learn and grow as a student. This process has helped me to understand what the work of a researcher entails, including both the struggles and the rewards of this line of work. My favorite part of the REU experience so far is the educational nature of the program. In addition to the research projects we are each engaged in, I find that I learn through our weekly seminars in science writing, art and science, and journal club. Additionally, I have particularly enjoyed living as part of a community of student researchers, all with similar goals and values but a variety of interests, including soil microbiology, pollinator biology, and geography. I have enjoyed the program so far and hope to continue to learn through the remainder of the summer.

      Start of Week 1: As an undergraduate, every research experience is a valuable opportunity to hone my career path and aspirations. This summer, I hope to engage in a research project that is challenging and immersive, stretching my mind to consider novel approaches to environmental problems. I look forward to the opportunity to delve into my research project, which will involve sampling plankton and detritus to evaluate the quality of food sources available to aquatic invertebrates, and how this might affect their daily vertical migration patterns. I strive to make the most out of this summer’s research, and specifically I would like to gain more ecological fieldwork experience and expand on my knowledge of statistical programing. Additionally, I will embrace the opportunity to interact with faculty and staff at the University of Vermont, from whom I hope to learn more about the variety of ecological research being conducted in Vermont, and how to form a path that will lead to a career in ecology. In addition to my research goals, I hope to enjoy a summer spent in the natural beauty of Vermont.
    • Olivia HonigmanOlivia Honigman
      School: Earlham College
      Graduation year: 2018
      End of Week 10: I can’t believe how quickly these 10 weeks have flown by! When I look back on this summer, I am amazed by the opportunities that I have been given. I have learned more than I could have imagined by attending workshops, talking to mentors about their life experiences, and through the process of pursuing my own research project. I have grown as a person and as a scientist, and have a more complete understanding of what it means to explore a topic through scientific study. I feel truly grateful to have been part of such a wonderful community, and am so thankful to Jason, Michael, Beth, and my REU cohort for the support they gave me throughout the summer. I would recommend this REU program to any student interested in science, as it has been an incredible and rewarding experience.

      End of Week 6: We are more than halfway through the program and the verdict is…I am completely in love with bees (and flowers and trees and the beautiful berry farms of Vermont). The weeks are flying by, each one full of new adventures, challenges and suprises. With deadlines fast approaching, I am working hard to get sampling done and data entered. I am excited for our upcoming art show, as well as the group project we are starting, but I wish I had more time to accomplish everything. It is definitely beginning to feel like crunch time! I look forward to seeing what everyone is able to accomplish in the last few weeks, and I hope to make the most of the time we have left.

      Start of Week 1:I feel both excited and nervous to begin a summer of research and exploration. I am looking forward to getting to know my fellow students and mentors and learning as much as I can from those around me. I am also thrilled about my field placement and can’t wait to begin working on my summer projects. I am sure this process will be both challenging and rewarding, and I know that I will learn a great deal about myself along the way. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a network of mentors that are more than willing to provide me with necessary tools and information as I move forward. I am especially interested in improving my critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. I hope to build confidence in myself as a researcher and communicator and expect that this program will help me to determine whether or not research is truly something I wish to continue as a long-term pursuit.
    • Jeni KnightJeni Knight
      School: Eastern Michigan University
      Graduation year: 2017
      End of Week 10: This experience has been so amazing. I’m so happy to have met so many wonderful people and to have shared in the struggles and triumphs of science together along the way. I really enjoyed my time with my upward bound student. I believe we both learned from each other in the end and the experience is one I will always cherish. I was really impressed with the Art & Science pieces made by my peers and very affected by them too. The workshop as a whole opened my eyes to a different perspective of science communication. Learning to code in R was very challenging at times, but it was empowering to see the program generate my output. The stress and perfection associated with poster making was a first for me, but very rewarding once the final product was on display at the symposium. The creativity the cohort exhibited in our final group project was top notch! Overall, I can say that I am more confident in my pathway toward a research career and would definitely recommend this program to other undergraduates.

      End of Week 6: The last few weeks have been very busy, sometimes overwhelming, but I have enjoyed the challenge. Working alongside the CREST teachers during our ponar sampling days and speaking with them about their careers and experiences opened my eyes to the importance and value of science in a secondary education learning environment. I now question if this influential pathway is one I might explore later in life. My time spent with this group also enabled me to increase my data set three-fold with the additional 30 samples we collected. I have appreciated the support of my mentor along this journey and look forward to learning more about the capabilities of R when analyzing the data. I have very much enjoyed the dessert seminars, from getting to know the mentors better to learning about different paths to graduate school and receiving a lot of great advice about admissions; it has been extremely valuable. I have spent time hiking, frequenting the downtown restaurant scene and have enjoyed the various local swimming holes. The 4th of July fireworks display on the waterfront was hands down the best I’ve even seen. I simply adore Burlington and the breathtaking views Vermont has to offer.

      Start of Week 1: I’m honored that UVM has given me the opportunity to conduct research for the very first time. I anticipate this summer to be filled with significant professional and personal development. I hope that this experience will confirm my potential as a researcher and give me a glimpse into what graduate school is like. I’m excited to spend time in the lab, expand my knowledge of invertebrate taxonomy, and learn about new equipment and methods. I look forward to learning from both my peers and mentors. With regard to the mentors, I’m interested to learn about their career paths and inquire about and benefit from their experience. Aside from being immersed in the research process, I’d like to explore the culinary offerings and cultural happenings of Burlington as well as the natural beauty of the surrounding areas.
    • Lauren MariolisLauren Mariolis
      School: St. Michael's College
      Graduation year: 2017
      End of Week 10: These past ten weeks have been exciting, exhausting, fun, and stressful all at the same time. I have learned a lot about myself as an academic and I’ve been able to explore the chaotic and fun world of research. Although I am happy to be heading home, I’ve had an absolutely wonderful experience. I am so grateful for all that I have learned and all the hard working people that make this program happen. The last two weeks has been a whirlwind of finishing data collection, running statistics, and putting our whole ten-week research experience on a poster. Like I’m sure many will say, there were many ups and downs, but one thing that never changed was the support given to us. Thank you to all who were so supportive of my success in this program! The Lake Champlain REU was definitely one of the most intense academic learning experiences I have had in my life, but it was all worth it.

      End of Week 6: Going into the summer, I was excited and ready to take on a research topic that I didn’t know too much about. Although my enthusiasm has not at all gone away, I have realized the true chaos and unpredictability of research. Data collection has proven to be the most difficult part of my summer experience so far. Although, I really enjoy spending my data collection days on the beach interviewing people, the weather and beach closures have proven to be my biggest inconvenience in the last few weeks. The one thing I have definitely learned this summer is you can’t control the weather. From this experience, I have learned so much about adapting to the circumstances you are given and for that I am so grateful! My experience so far has been wonderful, stressful, and eye-opening; the project I am working on has helped me realize how interested and passionate I am in social science research. Now it’s time for the final stretch of the summer!

      Start of Week 1: Throughout my academic career at Saint Michael’s, I have been given the opportunity to study the environment from so many angles; whether it be from human perception of nature or biological relationships within ecosystems, or even climate change at the molecular level. An area of this field I have not had the chance to explore yet is people’s environmental attitudes and behaviors. Fortunately, the particular REU project I will be working on entails this aspect of research. Having the capability to further explore social science research is something that I am not only extremely excited about, but also something I value deeply. I believe that environmental science research is nearly insufficient without it being combined with communicating science to pertinent communities. Also, expanding my knowledge on the perpetually relevant topic of Cultural Ecosystem Services and environmental attitudes would establish my capabilities as an emerging academic and environmental researcher. Being able to explore, study, and research the environment from a completely different perspective is incredibly exciting.
    • Shannon McFarlandShannon McFarland
      School: Western Connecticut State University
      Graduation year: 2018
      End of Week 10: The past 10 weeks have simply flown by! My time here in Burlington has been packed with incredible scientific opportunities including working with amazing faculty and students. To think just two weeks ago I felt stressed to my limit about not having all my samples analyzed and how would I even begin to draw conclusions and present this project. The saying is true though that the most difficult times can bring out the best in a person. I am very proud to say, I got it done and I will leave the Rubenstein Laboratory a different person because of it. During the REU program, I really enjoyed the seminars and definitely took away at least one new insight from each of them. After completing the program now, I realize I have a lot to think about in choosing a career path and, sooner rather than later, need to start organizing a plan for my future. Much appreciation to my mentor Allison Hrycik for her willingness and patience to teach me lab and field methods and most especially R code! Others including Jason, Michael, Brian, Captain Steve, Brad and Hannah supported me as well and my success is certainly in part due to them. I know I have gained lasting friendships with the other nine REU students as we supported each other in good and bad moments. Overall, it was a jammed pack summer of learning and new experiences and I highly recommend this opportunity to all undergrad students!

      End of Week 6: Hard to believe we are past the midpoint of the REU program already. It has been a challenging experience but the program has certainly exceeded my expectations. I knew coming in I would work very hard and much would be expected of me but I did not realize how much independence I would be given. This program truly treats you as a “researcher” and not as an undergrad who is here to observe and help out in a lab. This can be nerve wrecking and frustrating but at the same time it truly pushes you to the next level as it personally does for me each and every day. In a matter of weeks, I have learned so much about conducting research from the importance of reading and staying on top of publications in your subject area, designing a research question, sample collections in the field, analyzing samples and how to interpret your findings statistically. The list of skills I am gaining goes on and on. It has been a huge learning curve but I know I will leave here in a few weeks with skills and knowledge I could not have imagined I could gain in such a short period of time. My mentors are amazing role models and living with the other REU students has been a great support system as we work to our limits on our projects. Still so much work to do to finish my research and prepare my research poster in the next few weeks but the immense satisfaction I will feel keeps me driven to succeed. I am still so very thankful for this opportunity and to be here in beautiful Burlington!

      Start of Week 1: I can’t believe I’m here in Burlington since it just seems I was applying to REUs and anxiously waiting to hear if I would be accepted to one of the many amazing opportunities. Upon arrival here in Burlington, I certainly found it beautiful and can’t wait to explore the town and surrounding areas and activities. I definitely feel both excited and nervous as I begin. I’m excited to dive in and quickly learn more details about my project which will focus on early winter-spring ice-off and how it affects phytoplankton and zooplankton community dynamics. I am very excited to be working with my mentor since she has been so welcoming in the weeks leading up to my arrival. I do have some experience in independent research but not on this scale so I am looking forward to expanding my research skills this summer. I am nervous that I did not arrive being more knowledgeable on background information for my project but realize this will get better in the weeks ahead as I focus and work hard. Upon meeting my mentor in person tonight along with the rest of the REU students, I feel more confident already. I clearly see my summer experience will be a tremendous opportunity for learning combined with fun, as well as, an eye-opening experience to the world of research as a possible career path.
    • Damien PickensDamien Pickens
      School: Western Illinois University
      Graduation year: 2018
      End of Week 10: Here it is, the end. And I must say that it is bittersweet. Bitter in the fact that I have to leave a great place and people behind. I am very happy to say that my project has gone extremely well. I am so very grateful for all of the experiences I have had here, and the people I have met. I can truly say that I have learned so much more about ecology since being here. I can’t really do justice to my experience through words, but if I can sum it up in a few words, I would only have two words: utterly amazing.

      End of Week 6: After 6 weeks I must say that Vermont is still amazing me. It’s a great place to be living for the summer. I must also say that my expectations for the program have been exceeded thus far. My research is going very well, and everyone that is in the program is great. Partner shadowing was a great experience, and it allowed me to gain more insight into the world of ecology. I am having a great time here, and I am very thankful for the opportunity.

      Start of Week 1: When I first heard about this program I thought it sounded so amazing… And thus far it hasn’t disappointed me. I have never been farther east than Atlanta, Georgia. So when I first stepped off the plane it was like I had entered a whole new world. The air is fresh and the atmosphere is very relaxing. Vermont has a very distinct aura to it, and I am content to be around it. I am very excited to see what this summer has in store for me, and to be able to learn many new skills that will help me progress in science. I expect that this program will help me develop into a more skilled scientist. I am ready to take on this challenge with a smile, and gain everything that I possibly can from this experience.

Last modified August 08 2016 08:20 AM