Summer 2021 REU Lauren’s Blog Post

Lauren Norwood worked in the Conner Lab as an REU during the summer of 2021 as part of KBS’s Summer Undergraduate Programs. During her time at KBS, Lauren conducted research focused on leaf length and width differences between two ecotypes of wild radish, Raphanus raphanistrum. She spent time in the greenhouse growing plants and collecting phenotypic data, and measuring plants from previous studies using computer imaging tools. At the end of the summer, she presented her research to her peers and the KBS community as a whole. Lauren writes about her experience below.

My stay at Kellogg Biological station was a better experience than I could have ever imagined. I started applying to REU programs in late March of my third year of undergrad. A lot of the application deadlines had closed or were filled up, but Kellogg Biological Station was one of the few that were still accepting applicants. I applied, hoped for the best, and waited.

The Conner Lab 2021.

Less than two weeks later, I heard back from my soon to be graduate lab mentor, Ava Garrison, and was offered an interview and later the REU position with Michigan State and KBS. I was instantly excited and more interested in the opportunity I had been given. I felt heard during my interview, as Ava wanted to know about my own unique research interests and goals, instead of focusing on whether my experience aligned perfectly with the subject matter of the Conner Lab, where I would be working. Soon after, I met the primary investigator of my lab, Jeff Conner, and was introduced to the other URAs, graduate students, postdoctorals, and technicians of my lab. I was warmly welcomed to the Conner Lab staff, and was once again asked about my specific interests in research and concerns or questions about working in a new lab environment. Everyone was very accommodating and the lab dynamic really supported my own learning about research. Interest exploration, and achievement of personal goals were themes that were most definitely prioritized and encouraged throughout the rest of my summer here at KBS.

A photoshoot with friends in the LTER.

After flying into Michigan and arriving at Kellogg Biological for the first time, I really did feel welcome. The staff over the summer programs at KBS were ready to help us settle in and offered their assistance on multiple occasions. After I was settled, we were scheduled to meet our peers, other REUs and URAs, for the first time. This was one of the aspects of the REU experience that had worried me the most. For context, I’m somewhat of an introvert, mildly anxious, and sometimes soft spoken, so I was concerned about my ability to meet new people in a new place, especially in such a short time. I didn’t want to miss out on extracurriculars or end up isolated in either my lab or my apartment for the whole summer, because I couldn’t make friends. I mean it when I say that should’ve been the least of my worries. Never have I met a group of such kind-hearted, understanding, friendly, and genuine people, especially not with such similar interests to my own. On my very first day here I was kayaking in Gull Lake with people I barely knew, and in my opinion, that requires a bit of trust. I’ve formed incredibly strong bonds with so many people here and in a very short time. I can say with confidence that I’ll keep in contact with a number of people I’ve met here, many of which I can call lifelong friends.

Group trip to the Kalamazoo Farmers Market.

As my summer here at KBS closes, I can say that I’ve gained a lot of research experience. I conducted and presented my own experiment, learned about details of the experimental process I knew less about, like data collection and analysis, and further sculpted many abilities I thought I already possessed, like time prioritization and independent work. Career-wise, these were all great accomplishments, and KBS will absolutely play a key role in whatever I do next. But what stood out to me most during my experience here were the people involved. Kellogg Biological Station hosts and employs the most amazing group of people that I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Everyone here really cares about what you’re doing, where you’re at in the process, and what they can do to support that process, whether it’s educationally or emotionally. Kellogg Biological Station and this 2021 Summer Cohort are and will continue to be very important to me, and an experience that I’ll always remember fondly.