Summer 2021 REU Elijah’s Blog Post

Illustration of person standing in water, smiling
Me in Gull Lake.

Elijah Persson-Gordon worked in the Conner Lab as an REU during the summer of 2021 as part of KBS’s Summer Undergraduate Programs. During his time at KBS, Elijah both took classes and conducted research on the role of Gibberellic acid on temperature and daylength responses in wild radish, Raphanus raphanistrum. At the end of the summer, he presented his research to his peers and to the KBS community as a whole. Elijah writes about his experience below.

I love water. I love watching waves, finding water invertebrates, and swimming. But before the summer, I doubted that I would spend much time swimming because of the expected attire. If people think you’re a boy, you’re supposed to take your shirt off. The thing is, I have breasts. I thought that if I went swimming, people would stare at me. Staring is not a new experience for me, but it is still not very pleasurable.

I was so pleased to find that the people at KBS were very loving. I know this is a low bar, but no one commented on the way I dressed or what clothes I swam in. In fact, I usually didn’t put on a swimsuit and just swam in whatever clothes I was wearing that day. I loved being able to swim whenever I wanted.

Illustration of person with slinky legs and shoes on
An illustration of slinky legs. Here, I illustrated the person with shoes on, even though most of us settled on slinky leg people having no feet. Sorry for this inaccuracy.

Having a ton of supportive people around me made me feel much more comfortable with myself. I was able to be strange around people without judgement because they were strange too. A prime example and one of my favorite parts of the summer was when Abigail invented slinky legs. Slinky legs is a conceptual world where the humans have metal slinkies for legs that they’re able to fully control. We spent a long time enthusiastically (and sometimes aggressively) asking for clarification about how this world would work. We came up with all sorts of details about the culture of the slinky leg people and how they would move around. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Bjorn’s idea of slinky neck, which is pretty self-explanatory.

Illustration of person in waders, smiling
Me in waders.

Connection and joy meant a lot, especially after being isolated for a while. At KBS, I was even able to find purpose and joy in trying new things on my own. After I found out that I love waders, I went out to the marsh alone and dug around for some critters to take pictures. All the pictures turned out blurry, but I had a blast, and went out again later to a different pond.

Most people don’t think much about bathrooms, but at the end of the day, water ends up in our bladders, and we have to expel it somehow. This summer was my first time going pee in a men’s bathroom with other people in it. I felt nervous and self-conscious, but I managed to do my business. Also, it was a bathroom attached to a park, and it wasn’t very gross. I guess what I’m trying to say is that a lot of things can be joyful; even little things, like going into a men’s restroom that isn’t disgusting. Maybe that’s what life is all about.