Honestly, I’ve come so far, I’m not sure a reflection is possible. I had never done any research before BETA, and it seemed so terrifying last year. I joined BETA because of Dr. Sedlacek’s recommendation and encouragement. It also doesn’t hurt that “NASA” was on the application. I came into it without a single idea of what it would be like, and I could’ve have even estimated how far I’ve come.
After this year, I feel so blase about it. Run a chemistry chamber? Sure, why not? It’s given me confidence about myself as an academic as well. I’ve been to so many conferences--chemistry, geology, all-science. The experience in the lab, field, and scientific community has contributed to my world perspective. Sometimes the nature of lab work can be hugely intimidating, and although I still might not understand the chemistry side completely, I know that I am capable of doing the work. Not only that, I have now learned how to communicate scientifically to peers, professors, researchers, and my family about how our research works.
Many parts were frustrating. Time-management with BETA became difficult near the end of each semester, and sometimes the work we were doing confused the heck out of me. It took months to understand what we were looking for in the chemistry lab, and only recently have I been able to thoroughly understand the fog research. It was a struggle sometimes, keeping up with all the tiny studies we had going on. However, all that confusion and frustration has really become a strong foundation for my skills as a researcher and scientific communicator.
On top of that, I’d never really understood what it meant to present research at a conference. Presenting our data to an audience is intimidating, but once you find your voice, it’s a really wonderful experience. There’s a variety of people who attend these events, and it’s easy for even just one of them to discourage you. However, of the multiple conferences I attended, I can only recall their kindness and understanding, even when I misspoke or had difficulty explaining certain things. I treasure the experiences I have gained from going to poster sessions.
The best advice I can give: you’re not as confused as you think you are. It takes time, and a lot of effort to grasp everything that happens in BETA. It might terrify you to speak about your poster, especially at your first session. I had never done any of this before. I attended every conference I could, and accepted any job available. The little things you pick up here and there really do help. Just keep your eyes wide and your ears open. You’re still a student. Don't ever be afraid to ask a question.
But ask Jessica. Not me. I will probably just tell you about my gumball story.
You want Jessica.
I would like to first say that I am truly grateful for having this opportunity to conduct research with NASA. This opportunity has really challenged me in a good way to go out of my comfort zone and learn new scopes of science that I did not have much background in. I joined BETA because Dr. Kavita Dhanwada encouraged me to apply and thought that I’d be a good candidate. Also, not many female minorities are in STEM fields nor have an opportunity as this one, so I couldn’t let this chance pass me by. I turned in my application thinking that they would not pick me because the last time I took an Earth Science class was my junior year in high school. When I received the email that I was picked, I had to read it a few times to believe it! I was really excited and did not know what to expect.
I enjoyed getting to know everyone, and enjoyed myself at the conferences. I did it find it most difficult to understand some of the complex material that we were learning, but asking questions, reading articles and“Googling” helped me to understand some of the jargon that was used. I had a lot of fun at the quarry and the conference we’ve attended. I’ve never been to a quarry, hit rocks nor do anything that Geologists do. I was glad I did though because I have a new appreciation for those types of scientists.
The impact that BETA had on myself and career is that BETA reinforced to me that science does take time and patience is key. Also, there really is one science and exploring all of these avenues of science will give rise to better solutions for problems that may arise because difficult issues are complex and multifactorial. For future BETA students, I’d suggest not being afraid to ask questions because it’s okay to not fully understand things; just make sure you’re putting in effort to understand what’s going on. Lastly, have fun and don’t be afraid to get down and dirty at the quarry!
I jumped into the BETA project application after some encouragement from Dr. Sebree last spring. At first I was hesitant, I had no prior research experiment and it was in some fields of study that I felt were out of my disciplinary comfort zone. All hesitations aside, I filled out the application and was very excited when I found out I received the grant and position on the team. Throughout this school year I have learned so much more than I anticipated. I learned so many skills in the lab that I didn’t have before and I learned a lot about field work as well. The patience required in research whether it was waiting for a fog event, running what felt like endless runs on the actinometry study, or even searching for a contact in the field that seemed like it was impossible to find, was probably the most important lesson I learned this year on the BETA project. Research requires a lot of patience, and might involve a lot of trial and error. I had a lot of fun on this team, I got to interact with students and professors that I wouldn’t have gotten the chance to otherwise, the chance to experience time in the quarry and lab and van rides together was an unexpected bonding opportunity. For future BETA students, I recommend that you take the opportunity to learn all three parts of the project really well, take the chance to learn a skill you wouldn’t have the chance to otherwise, and have fun! Research is really fun and it is really rewarding. I am excited to take the skills I learned from working on a team into the rest of my schooling and hopefully other research projects and the work place, I feel this is a key skill to learn and I am thankful that the BETA project provided the opportunity to learn it.
I joined the BETA Project for a very particular reason. I had been doing educational research on the impacts of doing research as a teacher and my preliminary results indicated doing scientific research would benefit myself and future students. This came to light very soon before I received an email about applications for the BETA Project. I chose to apply for this versus just finding a lab to do research in because this project was and is fascinating. I learned so much about how the Earth would have been, how humans are impacting the atmosphere today, and how we can do research on the conditions of Earth even though the time we are researching happened billions of years ago! My degree, All Science Teaching, was chosen because I love the intersection between the sciences and an interdisciplinary study was right up my alley.
That being said, doing the actual research wasn’t a piece of cake- it took a lot of work. While I did not work within the fog portion of the project, studying the Devonian and Proterozoic Earth came with their own challenges. For the Devonian, we went out in the field and collected samples. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. We had to measure the distance from point A to point B (where we were collecting) within a narrow mud gully that was wet from recent rains. It was treacherous at times, but I would be lying if I said it was anything except exhilarating and heck of a lot of fun! For the Proterozoic Earth, there was a steep learning curve working with photochemical reaction chambers (making sure not to over pressurize anything to avoid explosions) along with using an SEM for the first time! If you had told me at the beginning of the year that I would be taking images of 200 nanometer with an SEM or performing studies on the characteristics of deuterium lamps, I wouldn’t have believed you. But now? I wouldn’t question it one bit- the astrochemistry lab is full of surprises and you might be doing something entirely different from one day to the next. That is what made the research so fulfilling.
If I have anything to pass along to future BETA students it would be to not be afraid of getting your hands dirty. You get as much out of the project as you put in! Also, ask questions. Even if you feel like you are bothering your research advisors, it is better to ask because it can lead you down to conversations about broader topics, research implications, or just getting to know people better! Let yourself try even if you’re afraid because some of the most exciting and fulfilling parts of my experience were a direct result of pushing out of my comfort zone. I am so thankful for this project and I can’t wait to bring my experience to my future students (and hopefully future scientists)!
It has been a long adventure, I joined the BETA project to learn and advance my knowledge of working in a lab. It has been such an honor to work on this project and especially being able to say I had a fellowship with NASA. This year I learned a lot, I never knew that I would be working with such a talented and friendly group of people. I learned how to take aerosol pictures with the SEM, how to collect fossils, run an atmospheric chamber and polish rocks. The overall experience was so much fun, my favorite part was the conferences and the Rockford trip. I still have all the fossils that i collected.
The most difficult part of this project was waiting for some of our experiments to get done time management always was hard with this project but I managed to have time for the project. Future BETA students should have fun, and hopefully they will finish the project. This experience has been such a great opportunity it has made me grow as a person and as a scientist. I would like to thank Dr. Sed, Dr. Sebree, and Dr. Shen for teaching me so much and mentoring me this year.
Working on BETA was an experience like no other. I first began unofficially working on BETA in May of 2015 after I was approached by Dr. Sed to participate in UNI’s SURP (Summer Undergraduate Research Program), which actually started when the BETA Project was just a proposal. I did background research on the Devonian Period with the intent that we would eventually collect samples to analyze for carbon and strontium in order to compare isotope curves for the two elements. Luckily, the BETA Project was approved and this research became a lot bigger than it was when I began working on it.
Before BETA, I didn’t realize that research is a completely different ballpark than just taking classes and studying. It’s one thing to take notes and understand things at a base level for undergraduate classes, and another entirely to really understand a subject in depth to a degree that you can explain it to other people at conferences. Though there were times when I was out of my element (especially where I began working on the chamber side of the project), I learned more through this project that I ever could have in a classroom.
If not for BETA, I wouldn’t have been given a lot of the opportunities that I have had over the past year. I went to NASA in Washington DC for a week last summer and I was able to learn first hand about future missions while seeing how an institution that is solely focused on research operates. Additionally, it allowed me to experience geological field work. Field work is incredibly important in geology and unfortunately, as an undergraduate, there isn’t a lot of opportunity to actually go to an outcrop or exposure and collect samples first hand. BETA gave me the chance to go and experience that for myself.
For anyone wanting to work with the BETA Project, I say just put yourself out there and go for it! Not having much experience with research isn’t a really hindrance here because most of what we learn in learned on the job. Plus, it’s pretty awesome to tell people that you’re working an a research project that’s collaborating with NASA.
It’s weird to say goodbye to BETA. I’m graduating in a few days and will no longer be an active member of the project. I’m sad to say goodbye to everyone who I’ve gotten to know though BETA, but I’m excited for the project to keep moving forward. All in all, working with BETA was definitely an experience that I would not trade for anything, and I’m thankful to have been a part of it.
I first heard about BETA while I was taking classes in the Spring of 2015 during the end of the semester. I was so overwhelmed by all the deadlines that I completely forgot about applying for the BETA team. During the Summer of 2015, I was taking classes at UNI, when I received an email stating that the deadline was extended so that more students had the opportunity to apply. I immediately used this opportunity to apply and was very happy to receive the acceptance email.
I was a bit nervous at first to join a research project since this would have been my first time doing research, so I did not know what to expect. My advice for future BETA students is to step out of your comfort zone because you can learn so much from first-time experiences. I sure did! In addition, do not be scared about not being smart enough or not being familiar with the subject. The professors/mentors are very helpful in helping their students succeed and transition into doing research. Also remember, the professors are not expecting you to know everything about their given field. That’s why you applied in the first place so you can learn and along the way, you will get to the point where you can present a poster on any given subject.
I would never have collaborated with students and professors from different fields had I not joined the BETA team. I had the opportunity to work with colleagues and professors in the fields of Geology, Meteorology/Air Quality, Astrochemistry, Biology, Environmental Science, Earth Science, and All Science Teaching. The BETA project is a great example of interdisciplinary studies working together to gain a better understanding on the Biogeochemical Evolution of The Atmosphere.