The Ebbs and Flows of Research

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My internship at University of North Carolina’s (UNC) Institute of Marine Sciences has helped me gain valuable insight into geological research. From measuring oyster densities under the beating sun to photographing hundreds of fossilized shells in a remodeled dark room, I was reminded of the persistence and patience required for this career path. The lab and I experienced multiple equipment failures, trips foiled by the weather and tides, and an endless list of minor challenges that just made bad situations even worse. But through it all, dedication and a little bit of ingenuity were enough to overcome anything that stood in the way.

I learned the most during these moments where I was reminded of the importance of both flexibility and perseverance. As important as it was for me to learn about North Carolina’s coastal geology and the methods used for quantifying or analyzing core data, the opportunity to simply observe the culture and work in this lab was enough for me to want to continue pursuing research.

There is a thrill that comes when trying to come up with questions that have not yet been asked or attempting to answer them with the data you worked so hard to retrieve. Thanks to this internship, I am more confident with my plan to go to graduate school and work on a project of my own. This internship has also confirmed that fieldwork is something I would like to continue doing. Despite all the time and energy sacrificed, it is so very rewarding and is also an amazing opportunity to witness the natural world in all its glory.

Written by Robin Kim, BC Class of 2018

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It’s the Little Things

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During a three-hour drive to an oyster reef restoration site, I learned from my lab group all about the joys of shopping in the produce section at Harris Teeter, a North Carolina-based grocery chain. Morehead City, where UNC’s Institute of Marine Sciences is located, isn’t Boston. It’s quieter, slower, and much simpler. My supervisor remarked by saying, “With all that goes on around here, you learn to appreciate the little things in life.”

I’m witnessing this cliche come true as I analyze hundreds of sediment core samples using similar methods I had learned in physics and chemistry lab courses. The precision-oriented tasks I found tedious and trivial have returned, and although still tedious, I now realize they are far from trivial. Every bit of data obtained from each layer of intermingled clay, silt, and sand reveals a secret yet to be unearthed.

Dr. Ethan Baxter of the Geosciences Department has a quote: “Every rock tells a story.” As sea level rise gradually creeps through the 21st Century, these micrometer- to millimeter-wide particles are helping us understand what has happened and what may happen. One of the many stories our lab is currently looking into is the role of oyster reefs in sequestering carbon in the midst of climate change.

Boston College has so far prepared me well for this internship through the education and opportunities it has given me. From learning about partial derivatives with Dr. Chambers to serving hors d’oeuvres with the catering staff, every experience I’ve gained as a BC student has helped me to become a better scientist, thinker, communicator, and person. It’s the little things.

Written by Robin Kim, BC Class of 2018