Saturday, July 2, 2016

Reflections from Lake Menomin

I like to push my own boundaries, I always have.  In the past four years I have skydived, added a second major, competed at a national speech competition, received a rock climber’s belay certification, and applied to an internship I thought to be well out of my grasp, The LAKES REU.  While the latter of these proved most nerve-wracking, it only slightly exceeds the challenges I face when writing about myself.  Personal statements make me uncomfortable.

This week’s blog post topic challenges me to synthesize my favorite activities, reflecting how they overlap my research interests.  This highly reflective, personal topic echoes my boundary-pushing tendencies and begs personal development.


Travel, volunteer work, and time spent outdoors are leisure activities I enjoy most.  Initially I saw no direct connection between these pastimes and my LAKES REU work, but closer examination illuminates the manifold overlap between my hobbies and research interests.  Menomonie, Wisconsin is entirely uncharted territory just under seven hours travel from my hometown; the simple location of this REU provides me new highway to traverse, new geography to explore, and a new small town to call home.

Beyond travel, my volunteerism and desire to help others also transcends my extracurricular activities, shaping my research interests. Mitigation of phosphorous pollution via collective community action is at the heart of the LAKES project.  While it is not volunteer-based, the positive impact the two previous years of LAKES research interns culminated is observable within the community.  These tangible impacts further excite and strengthen my dedication to the project by overlaying my interests in helping people and volunteerism.

Perhaps the most lucid intersection of my research and personal interests is my appreciation of outdoor activities.  While hiking and camping are treasured retreats, watersports like canoeing and kayaking are easily my favorite pastimes. As such, the overlap between my personal and research interests are vivid.   Lake Menomin is a beautiful lake that could host a multiplicity of water-based activities, but cannot due to safety concerns around the very phosphorous pollution problem on which the LAKES project is centered.


All of this in focus, it becomes simpler to understand how the things that are important to us in our personal lives shape our professional and research interests.  Things that we value in everyday life become central to our academic and professional endeavors, thus creating work that is more meaningful and enjoyable…sometimes it just takes the boundary-pushing discomfort of personal reflection in a blog post to fully realize it.
   
Myself and a few of the LAKES crew overlapping our research/personal interests on a small hiking trip to Willow River State Park a few weekends ago


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