My Path To Science

Sep 7, 2016 By Amanda Clark
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In high school, I already knew I wanted to work in science! I’ve always wanted to answer the question: Why does this happen and how?

I was a part of a team called B.E.S.T., which stands for Boosting Engineering Science and Technology. Teams would work together to build robots that could complete jobs in a competition. In my first year, we had to build a robot that could fix a problem with the Hubble Space Telescope -- a telescope that was launched into outer space in 1990 and that is still taking really amazing photos of space today!

Our robot had to turn off a switch, just like your lights at home, take out old batteries, and put in new batteries (made out of old coffee cans). Working with a team to think of a creative and simple way to do our mission helped us learn how to solve problems. Problem solving is very important in science!

When I went to college, I was not very good at math, so I decided to study biology instead of engineering. I worked hard and I got the chance to do research in my first laboratory. There I learned all about how scientists start at the smallest living thing - a cell - to find out how the body works and find out what makes the body sick. I enjoyed the lab so much that I wanted to be a researcher, or someone who studies things and does experiments to find new knowledge.

My Love For Animals

When I was a kid, I would go out and find toads and turtles in and around our creek, but no one else in my household liked to do these things. My parents felt like they didn’t know enough about nature and wildlife to go out alone and explore it without an expert. I didn’t start exploring nature again until I began teaching with Fresh Air Family, a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting families outdoors together.

I went to summer camp for the first time at the age of 22! Well, I didn’t go as a camper but it was the best experience of my life. At Gross Out Camp we hiked around looking for bugs and explored the creek looking for crayfish and other macroinvertebrates, which are creatures that are big enough to see without special tools and do not have a backbone.

Big Dave, a herpetologist (a person that studies reptiles and amphibians) and ornithologist (a person who studies birds), came to camp every week with animals. He brought snakes and birds to teach with and showed us how humans are changing their habitats, which are the places that these animals live, and lifestyles. We learned different ways people called ecologists study animals. Ecologists study the relationship between animals and their ecosystems. Big Dave was my inspiration to go back to school and work in ecology.

My work in the research laboratory and my work teaching ecology lead to discovering my passion for molecular ecology. My career choice developed from learning more about ecology and combining it with my knowledge of molecular biology. Along with studying molecular ecology, I am dedicated to teaching families and children about the ecosystems that they are a part of. It is important to be comfortable with the world around us, and even more important to learn about it.