My Summer Experience: A Reflection

Posted: August 4, 2013

How working in the Tooker Lab has shaped me as a student, scientist, and person.
Emily and Katie enjoying their sentinel prey

Emily and Katie enjoying their sentinel prey

When I originally accepted my summer job in the Tooker Lab, I viewed it as a way to boost my resume and earn some money this summer. I was really just looking for a way to spend my summer that could impress a future employer. Never did I imagine how much I would actually enjoy working with bugs, or all the learning experiences it would provide.  But, like so often before, I had no idea what I had actually gotten myself into.

            Academically, this summer has greatly expanded my knowledge. I’ve learned to identify many things, such as slugs, ground beetles, ants, and spiders. I have also learned about their roles in the ecosystem. For example, ground beetles are predators of slugs, which is beneficial to farmers because slugs are extremely destructive to crops like corn and soybeans. Identifying arthropods has also strengthened my ability to use a dichotomous key and any other identification resource lying around our lab.

            This job has really given me a great taste of the research world as well. I never realized all of the planning that goes into research experiments that may or may not give conclusive results. Everything must be done with precision and attention to detail, or else an entire experiment might be thrown out. Also, many repetitions must be done to discover real patterns and results. Though much of this may seem tedious and pointless at the time, one must look past that to grasp the big picture.

            Most importantly, though, this summer has helped me grow as a person. Though I do not always understand what we are doing, or why we are doing it, I have been developing patience, which is something that is definitely necessary for both research and life. I have also been stripped of any shyness that was left in me, and I now ask at least twenty questions a day. I have been introduced to so many things, both within Penn State and beyond, such as other research going on in the College of Ag Sciences, environmental interests in State College, opportunities offered by other organizations that I can pursue in the future, and best of all, new people I can enjoy daily. Working with like-minded individuals has been extremely gratifying for me. I can appreciate their experiences and views, and receive a warm reception when I do the same. This summer has been full of new experiences, and I look forward to the evolution I will continue to undergo at the Tooker Lab. 

-Katie Speicher