Undergrad @ Loyola University Chicago
I received my BS degrees at Loyola University of Chicago in Biological Sciences (emphasis in Ecology) and Environmental Sciences. Loyola offered a unique science education curriculum that allowed me to take a wide breadth of subject matters, while honing my emphasis in Ecology. I had a chance meeting with an outstanding professor, Dr. Brian Pickett, where I was first exposed to true scientific inquiry. Dr. Pickett's lab had constructed a genetically-modified zebrafish (Danio rerio) line that produced fluorescent proteins when specific genes were activated, specifically during the embryo development. This pairing was my first taste of interdisciplinary research and helped broaden the way I had thought of "ecology." I worked on how rising water temperatures influenced the zebrafish embryo development. We observed that the increased water temperature led to an increase in development rate that led to some interesting abnormalities in the fish, from snub-ended tails to even a two-headed embryo.
As I reflect on my undergraduate research experience it is obvious that my research opportunity and the many meaningful discussions with Dr. Pickett truly shaped the way I approach science much more than any single course. This unique mentoring opportunity has sparked my deep desire to be an effective educator and science communicator. Most everyone can point to a single event or person that laid the foundation for what drives them, and for me that is Dr. Pickett.
Lake Forest Open Lands &
Illinois EPA Internship
I have had some excellent opportunities to experience the natural world in many different aspects. For a summer I was selected to be a member of the Governor's Environmental Corps. where I was paired with an Illinois EPA employee working in the Water Bureau monitoring and regulating local freshwater and municipal wastewater treatment facilities. This offered a unique opportunity to witness the regulatory and policy side of environmental protection. From inspecting Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) facilities in Decatur, IL to tracing a large watershed contamination event from a swine farm retention pond breach, I developed first hand knowledge of the intersection between industry and governmental agency.
The following summer, I began a two-year summer stint at the Lake Forest Open Lands Association (LFOLA) in Lake Forest, IL. This was my first experience with science education, and I have been hooked ever since. I help organize daily activities for environmental education summer camps that ranged from scavenger hunts to familiarize with the many ecosystems that were on the LFOLA grounds, to overnight camping and hiking trips to Starved Rock State Park. I also had the pleasure of working alongside some incredible science educators that helped me get back in touch with how extraordinary interacting with nature truly is. It was within these few summers that I began developing the passion for science education and communication that is now integral in my graduate work, for that I cannot thank everyone at LFOLA enough ("Teaching" tab).
My Time at Michigan State University (2011-Present)
I am currently finishing my PhD at Michigan State University. I am working in Dr. Elena Litchman's lab, located at the Kellogg Biological Station (a MSU research field station). My home department is Zoology, with affiliations in the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior (EEBB) and Environmental Science and Policy (ESPP) programs. I have been working on the development of mass algal cultivation for biofuel generation through the lens of community ecology. Over the course of three years, I have been a NSF K-12 Fellow focusing on developing science communication skills and developing impactful K-12 science curriculum (check out the "Teaching" tab).