The most notable thing about this past week's work has been the seamless, smooth transition from the classroom to a research-oriented setting. I've never participated in anything even resembling an actual research program before, so needless to say I came in with a hint of worry about handling expectations. But right from the formal start on Monday morning, every mentor spoke of the research in a manner that respected its rigor but also recognized the positive externalities brought about by the process, keeping everything in perspective and in good light. Dr. Zach Raff wasted no time in taking Jimmy and I under his wing while still emphasizing that we take full advantage of the freedom afforded to us and providing useful time management tips to make the most of it without losing ourselves. A real sense of community and togetherness was fostered early on, which I greatly appreciate.
With that said, I find myself pleasantly surprised by how much I've enjoyed reading paper after paper about topics relating to my project specifically as well as the overall scope of LAKES. My project examines the effectiveness of the Minnesota Phosphorus Lawn Fertilizer Law on reducing phosphorus content in water; coming into this program I had no idea that so much literature was available for...anything, much less a single state law restricting the use of fertilizers containing phosphorus. But searching for and finding so much information has become an exciting practice that has managed to further whet my appetite for fully fledged analysis.
Outside of research, I've managed to get to know Menomonie a bit this past week. A pair of bike trips to Walmart and around Lake Menomin have really tired my legs out - but more importantly, they allowed me a firsthand, immersive experience with the city and its people beyond the downtown/UW-Stout area. Everywhere I go I'm met with a smile and a friendly greeting, sometimes even a curious dog eager to make a new friend. Coming from a heavily metropolitan city complete with your standard issue hustle and bustle, it's refreshing to be able to take a step back and appreciate society instead of just getting through it.
In retrospect, I accepted the offer to join this distinguished team of faculty and undergraduate researchers with one simple goal in mind: to give this project my absolute best, day in and day out. After barely a week, I've come to the realization that the wonderful people of LAKES and of Menomonie, the awesomeness of Wisconsin's nature, and the serenity of having a defined purpose have so much more to give than I thought. But I'm more than willing to step up to the challenge of reciprocating and having a fruitful 8 weeks. So thank you to all of the aforementioned, for this great opportunity and for confirming that my brain has not in fact been hijacked but rather remained very much aware of the marvelous reality that this summer is shaping up to be.