The Next Generation of Scientists

I know the reason I have pursued graduate school and a career in science is owed to the mentoring I received as an undergraduate student. My first mentor was Dr. Simmons, who I worked under in his lab on stream ecology. He encouraged me to apply for the Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) programs, where I went on to work with Dr. Rosi and Dr. Bechtold for a whole summer at Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies. It was this experience that gave me the confidence and background to apply for graduate school programs. In fact, Dr. Bechtold introduced me (virtually) to my current advisor!

Because of all the guidance and encouragement I got as an undergraduate I am highly motivated to continue the legacy and mentor the next generation of scientists. I am thankful that my advisor has given me the opportunity to work with three different REU students. For me, working with undergraduate students has many benefits. They are eager to help, they are curious, and they are enthusiastic. The primary reason I love working with undergraduates it that it is my way of giving back to the scientific community. I owe a lot to my previous mentors and I try return the favor by helping mentor the next generation of scientists.
M. Fernandez with his poster at the Biology Symposium. M. Fernandez updated his poster and went 
on to win first place at the 2017 FCE ASM.

Last week, Marco Fernandez, our REU student from the summer of 2016, attended the Florida Coastal Everglades All Scientists Meeting (ASM) and presented a poster on his research. He has also presented his work at the Florida International University Biology Symposium and will be attending the Society for Wetland Sciences (SWS) meeting next month. Marco is setting the foundation for the rest of his career and is currently doing a second project with our advisor, John Kominoski, looking at the ecological effects of fire. At the ASM Marco’s hard work paid off and he was awarded a prize for Best Undergraduate Poster! He earned it. M. Fernandez , following in the footsteps of previous Kominoski Lab REU students, won a prestigious SWAMP award to attend the SWS meeting. He will be presenting his poster "Quantifying changes in soil microbial carbon use in coastal wetlands exposed to crossed gradients in salinity and phosphorus: Implications for sea-level rise". If you are in Puerto Rico at SWS, look out for M. Fernandez and his poster.

Me in 2012 with my poster at the water council meeting. Like Marco, I won first place!
Marco’s win brought back memories from when I was an undergraduate at my first scientific meeting. I presented an early draft of my honors thesis project at the 2012 Maryland Water Monitoring Council Meeting. I remember feeling nervous and excited but mostly just remember how big of an impact winning first place as a young scientist can be. Positive feedback, both informal and formal, can keep students inspired. Every early career scientist has doubts about their ability to make it in science; great mentors and recognition help silence these doubts and lay the foundation to future success.

Who kept you motivated as a young scientist?

How many of you find motivation from working with undergraduate students or even high school students?

Do you have any mentoring advice? I am still learning! 

Comment below!


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