EXPERIENCE MATTERS: Summer Research Advances Career Goals

Melanie PeelResearch Experience for Undergraduates Summer Programs (REUs) offer top Whittier College math and science majors the opportunity to spend summer months learning advanced research methods and preparing for work at the graduate level. With the help and mentorship of Whittier professors, students are able to secure spots in competitive programs. This year, juniors Melanie Peel and Anastasia Bergara both traveled to Texas this summer--Peel to the University of Texas Marine Science Institute and Bergara to the Rice University Summer Institute on Statistics--to take on the challenge of an REU.

Biology and environmental science major Melanie Peel '14 pursued a research project in marine ecology, which examined how population abundance of blue crab larvae varied along a gradient, from the Gulf of Texas to the bays nearby, to determine impact of differing environmental factors.

Math major Bergara explored modeling trends in ground level ozone data, to examine the statistical significance—if any—produced by implementation of the 1992 Clean Air Act.

In both cases, the students found the whole experience well worth it—from exposure to rich local resources and advanced scientific and mathematical processes and instrumentation, to working in collaborative team on challenging projects, to close mentorship on how to approach, analyze, and synthesize high-level data for presentation and further exploration. The pair also found benefit in the professional networking and collegial environment provided throughout the experience.

They each additionally reported that the experience has helped them determine their plans post-graduation.

Peel is interested in devising her own project for a fellowship bid or internship, with a plan to attend veterinary school next fall. Bergara will keep in close contact with her fellow REU colleagues for future research work, while she applies to graduate school for an advanced degree in applied mathematics.