Applied and Environmental Microbiology and Animal and Nutritional Sciences
Class of 2019
Berkeley Springs, West Virginia
What book would you recommend and why?
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck! It was published in 1931, in the throes of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, and became the best-selling novel in the U.S. for both 1931 and 1932. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel in 1932 and was a major factor in Pearl S. Buck winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938. She was the first American woman to become a Nobel Laureate and is still one of only two Nobel Laureates to come from West Virginia. While this information is not directly related to the contents of the book itself, it puts one in the frame of reference to fully appreciate the huge impact the book made on American society at a time when our relationship to our land was at its most fragile. This seemingly simple yet incredibly complex relationship, of man to the earth, is the main theme of the novel and paralleled the concerns that real people faced, and still face, all over the world. I think most importantly, it was a story about how treating the earth and land with reverence leads to a better, happier, and more fulfilled life.
What is your favorite quote?
“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good." - Ronald Dahl
What do you love most about your major? And, how will it help you reach your career
What I love most about the applied and environmental microbiology major is the wide breadth of topics you learn about. It's not just microbes - it's soils, plants, water, food, disease, humans and everything in between. Microbes are just one crucial part of a complex and changing global ecosystem that we are still trying to understand fully. To add to that, the professors in the Division of Plant and Soil Sciences are all wildly passionate, friendly and knowledgeable about their respective specialties, qualities which are seemingly contagious to me and the other students.
Tell us about your experience with research or an internship?
The spring semester of my sophomore year I took my first applied and environmental microbiology class, General Microbiology, with Dr. Zachary Freedman. At the end of the semester, I asked him if he needed any undergraduate help in his lab. Much to my surprise, by the start of my Junior year he had me working on my own project with the end goal being to publish a paper before I graduated! I have been studying how anthropogenic nitrogen deposition, and its associated acidification, affects forest soil microbes and carbon storage. I got to sample from long term experimental plots in the USFS Fernow Experimental Forest in Parsons, West Virginia. I processed those samples, did physical and chemical tests, extracted bacterial and fungal DNA, and analyzed the resulting sequences. All along the way, Dr. Freedman and his graduate students were there if I needed help or had questions, which I often did, and were always incredibly kind and patient. Right now, I am currently in the process of performing statistical analyses on my data and making figures for the paper. Hopefully, I will start writing soon. While challenging, I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I learn new things every single day and am challenged in ways I never had been before.
What makes the Davis College special?
It was the entire reason WVU was founded! As a land grant institution, one of the main goals was “to promote scientific investigation and experiment respecting the principles and application of agricultural science." I think there is something uniquely special about being a part of this mission, one that hundreds of thousands have contributed to over 151 years. Some might say the Davis College is it's own proud community within WVU and I would have to agree!
When I first applied to WVU I was a journalism major, and before I started my freshman year I was an animal and nutritional sciences major with the intent to go to veterinary school. Now, I am a senior dual major in applied and environmental microbiology and animal and nutritional sciences! There is an insane amount of pressure on most high schoolers and freshmen to know exactly what they want to do with their lives, what career they want to have, and how exactly they are going to get there. I am here to tell you from experience that if you don't know what you want to do "when you grow up," that is okay. I think the most important thing I've gotten from WVU is a sense of self and what my priorities are. I still don't know exactly where I am going to end up career-wise, but I've developed a lot of different technical and transferable skills I know what I'm good at, and I know what kind of life I want to live. It's not a bad thing to have many paths to choose from, so don't limit yourself by thinking you can only prepare for one type of career.