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Research Experience for Undergraduates


Since 2011, LUMCON has been host to groups of undergraduate students taking part in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program. As its name implies, the REU Program is designed to get students interested in careers in science out of the classroom and into the field doing research. Participating students spend ten weeks between June and August conducting independent research with the guidance of a scientific mentor or mentor team. Throughout the program, a student will identify a research question, develop and orally present a research proposal, conduct their proposed research, and gain valuable experience communicating their findings in both a formal presentation and a written manuscript. Students will interact with their peers and the larger scientific community through career and skills-based workshops and by participating in seminars, summer programming, and local events at their research institution. This nationwide program is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), other federal and state grants, as well as local institutional budgets.

Here at LUMCON, research areas vary year to year but have included Gulf Oil Spill impacts, deep sea biology and ecology, coastal geology, microbial ecology, physiological ecology, coastal hypoxia, behavioral ecology, biogeochemistry, plant ecology, fisheries and aquaculture, ecosystem ecology, coral reef biology, and wetland science. Summer is one of our most active seasons so REU students have the opportunity to network with our resident faculty and interact with other undergraduates participating in summer courses. REU participants are integrated into the LUMCON community and encouraged to take part in all of our summer activities.

Speaking of summer, this is going to be an exciting one here at LUMCON as we are launching The White Boot School! Alongside summer courses and camps, we will be hosting additional events to bring the community together and encourage students to stay in Cocodrie on the weekends. We will be hosting a free concert featuring the Babineaux Sisters Band on June 10th, as well as other possible events including a building wide volleyball tournament, a comedian, and yoga classes. Be on the lookout for social media posts for these events!

For more information about the REU program, check out the REU Internships page on the LUMCON website. This page contains details about the provided stipend and available mentors, as well as Frequently Asked Questions and links to past projects.

Putting a Face with a Name – – Written by Leandra Darden

Science is a unique profession because your career is based almost solely on your name. As a student you have to read many scientific papers and it is easy to forget that the author of that paper is still a person. These researchers have ambitions, passions, families, and people who have helped them along the way. The Coastal Waters Consortium has many researchers at all levels and we wanted to feature some of them to show off not just their work, but their personalities as well.

Dr. Gregory Olson is a Research Associate II in the Response and Chemical Assessment Lab under Dr. Ed Overton. Currently Dr. Olson is working on sediment analysis for trace crude oil components as well as biomarker analysis and fingerprinting for specific crude oils.

Dr. Olson reports, “One of the more surprising things I have seen is the resiliency of sequestered oil in coastal marshes. Some of the samples we analyze show signs of delayed weathering. This has impacted my work with utilizing oil fingerprinting techniques to get a better idea of what kind of oil we are seeing in these samples.”

His work for Dr. Overton has not only helped understand the oil Dr. Overton’s lab is studying, but clarify some things for other researchers within the CWC. As scientists it can be difficult to explain to family members and friends what they do for a living. Often the people close to them have a vague understanding of they day to day life at work. Dr. Olson’s family believes he makes “environmental tea” and then runs it on the CSI (TV show) machine looking for pollutants. According to Dr. Olson this explanation “is not too far from the truth!”greglab (1)

Every job has its highlights and for Dr. Olson “field sampling is my favorite part of the job. I love being out on the water all day, cannot beat fresh air and sunshine!”. It is this part of the job for many field scientists. The part that gets them through the days when they have to process samples inside. Dr. Olson agrees saying “my least favorite part of the job is sample analysis, strictly speaking. It is fun when discovering something new or interesting but over time the process can get mundane. Integrating the same 75 odd compounds per sample for batches of 30, 50, or 100 samples can get tiresome.” All scientists agree that even though proces
sing samples can get tedious it is always exciting to realize that you have found something interesting.

Science is often a fine balance of planning and adapting to situations. This means that field science has a level of unpredictability that leads to some pretty interesting stories. For Dr. Olson recalls a time when “…I was out with another research assistant going to collect samples. It wasn’t until after we put the boat in the water that we realized we forgot to replace the drain plug! We scrambled to get it in place as our boat was taking on water. Luckily we were able to do so rather quickly and the boat was no worse for wear.”

It is always important for us to appreciate all of our hardworking scientists at the Coastal Waters Consortium! Dr. Gregory Olson is only one example of the great people that we have working on the questions of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

Marsh Madness

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) has written an article that focuses on our Marsh Madness event. Every year the CWC scientists, researchers and techs get together for a all hands-on-deck sampling event. It is a great way for our scientists to stay connected and get the data needed to answer our questions. Click the link below to read the full story.