DURI Summer Experience


FieldworkHola! This summer, I had the opportunity to work in a diverse, interdisciplinary team that conducted environmental research in Arequipa, Peru. This team is part of the Arequipa Nexus Institute, which is a partnership between Purdue and Universidad Nacional de San Agustin (UNSA). The goal of NEXUS is to collect extensive datasets in the agricultural and environmental sectors of Arequipa and use this data to guide sustainable development.

I, along with three other undergraduate students, traveled to Peru in May to learn about the geography, agricultural practices, and environmental challenges of the region. While in Peru, we worked alongside Peruvian students and professors from UNSA to develop research questions and collect data. 

My research project focused on soil health–specifically, heavy metal accumulation in Peruvian agricultural soils. Our team spent time at CIEPA Research Station, hand-augering holes through the dusty, rocky soil, to collect our samples. We packed-up over 100 samples that were sent back to Purdue for analysis. I spent the rest of the summer in the lab, utilizing Portable X-Ray Fluorescence technology to determine heavy metal content in the samples. At the end of the internship, I presented my data at a Purdue-UNSA poster symposium.

I loved everything about this internship; I was able to broaden my horizons (it was my first time working with soils) and make great connections and friendships at Purdue and UNSA. Additionally, the cultural immersion and intense research experience will serve me well in my future research pursuits.



Canoe to Work Day!

This summer I am working for a Civil/Environmental Engineering Firm in Downtown Indy! So far, this has been my favorite professional experience to date. I have been working in the engineering, regulatory services, and planning departments. My work either consists of research for new projects, wetland mitigation, or engineering plans! I am learning so much, plus I am hardly in the office which is a nice bonus 😊.

Christopher B. Burke, the company I work for, also has hosted “Canoe to Work Day” for 8 years now! I was so lucky to be able to partake and meet some of our customers as well as our mayor. 3 hours on the White River was a great way to start the morning and encourage people to take care of our river. Check out the photo below to see some of us in our boats!

I am anxious to start senior year but am having such a fun time here at my internship. It’s awesome to see engineering and environmental science come together.canoetowork


A Summer Abroad: The School for Field Studies

ayla wet suitG’day! This summer I had the opportunity of a lifetime: two months of studying conservation in the rainforests of Australia and performing research on the Great Barrier Reef. I was very apprehensive of my decision at first, as I had never met any of the 25 other students I would be spending the next 2 months with. In addition to this, I would be traveling to a remote research center in the rainforest where I would be sleeping in a cabin, have little to no Wifi access, and partaking in a rigorous Monday-Saturday schedule where the days began early and finished late. I was so nervous. However the two months I spent in Australia ended up being, without a doubt, the best two months of my life.

It is difficult to explain everything that I experienced, but I will do my best to make it short and sweet. The typical Monday – Saturday schedule consisted of a couple days full of lecture and the remaining days were typically field excursions. The field excursions could either last just a day or up to two weeks depending on where we were going and what we were doing. Some of the excursions that were just a day long included visiting regenerative agriculture farms, private aboriginal lands, hiking to waterfalls, volunteering for nearby communities, and so much more. Several of the longer field excursions included traveling to New Zealand, staying at a research station on the Great Barrier Reef, and exploring the Daintree Rainforest. Over the weeks, the passion I had for protecting the environment only grew, which is something that I did not think was possible. It was so amazing to be surrounded by other students who were fueled by similar passions and cared about the betterment of the world, not just themselves.

Overall, this experience has shaped me into a better person. I have gained further insight on the world of conservation, culture, ecology, and myself. I am able to walk away from this experience with lifelong friendships, a new perspective, and a fueled ambition ready to take on the world! If you ever have the opportunity to go abroad, take a leap of faith and go for it! P.S. Don’t forget to recycle 😉


Summer Internships

IMG-1032Summer internships are a great way to gain experience outside of school, make a little money, and see or live in new places. It can be a little scary and overwhelming to move somewhere far from home all on your own where you don’t know anyone for the summer, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. This past summer I packed up everything I owned into my little Subaru Forester and drove across the country to work in John Day, Oregon for the Forest Service as a GS-3 Fisheries Technician. Of course living in Oregon was super exciting for me, as was working for the Forest Service, but it was still scary to literally move across the country without the safety of my friends or family for 3 months. Long story short, I ended up having one the best summers and professional experiences ever, but it took some personal development to allow all that to happen. So, I broke it down into three lessons that I learned taking on this experience:

1. Going into a new experience alone can be scary but if you put yourself out there (sometimes out of your comfort zone) you can make friends, learn a lot, and have a lot of fun. Scary isn’t always bad, it’s just unfamiliar and that’s part of the adventure. I know I know I sound like a motivational poster but sometimes you just have to roll with whatever– and it ends up being more fun. 

2. Going into a job with little to no experience in that field isn’t always a bad thing, just be honest with your skills and open to learning new things. If you’re applying for a job that you already know how to do well, what’s the point? You’re there to learn and employers understand that so don’t shy away from a position because you feel inexperienced. 

3. Things are not gonna be perfect or go right all the time (this applies for life in general but especially for traveling across the country for an internship) but don’t dwell on that because it’ll take up too much of your brainspace and honestly is a waste of time wishing things went differently. Again, just be flexible and roll with it!

I learned so many new skills through my work with the Forest Service, but I really learned more about myself through this experience. Being independent, self-sufficient, working on communication and outreach, and open to new journeys are all important soft skills in pursuing a degree or professional experience. So give yourself a chance to develop those by putting yourself out there, even if it’s scary, because it could be a great experience (if not it can be a great story to tell).


Immersive Learning


This summer I had the opportunity to go on my second study abroad trip. I traveled to Belize with a small group of students, much different than my first study abroad where I went alone. We lived on a private island for a week, where we were 2 hours away from the mainland, had zero wifi, no hot water, and lived off power from a generator. Although it sounds like it would be terrible, it was by far the best part of the trip. We did conservation research diving while we were there. Three dives a day recording coral types, fish types, and conch and lobster size. We had three presentations a day that went over the importance of these conservation practices. I learned so much on this study abroad, more than I would have been able to if I was sitting in a classroom.


Indiana Governor’s Internship

This summer I am interning in the 2019 Indiana Governor’s Public Policy Internship. This program consists of numerous different government departments taking in students and integrating them into the workplace as if they were new employees. I am spending my part of the internship in the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). Specifically, I work in the Air Quality department writing air permits.

Air permitting consists of reviewing, writing, and amending permits that contain state and federal rules/regulations for businesses across the state. Every business that emits pollutants must have either an exemption, registration, MSOP, FESOP or TV permit to operate. Some of the pollutants I monitor in my division consist of VOCs, HAPs, PM/10/2.5, CO2, NOx, and SO2.

My workload for my internship roughly consists of amending 6-8 permits at a time. Each of my permits takes from 30-120 days to complete. This process is a lot of excel sheets, emission calculations, scientific writing, and rule reading.

The hardest part of my internship for me is trying to make sense of the laws. When I get a permit to complete, I have to figure out every single regulation, code, and rule that the business is subject to. I find it overwhelming at times trying to read the Indiana Administrative Code (IAC) since it is hundreds of pages long.

Either way, I love the experience of being in a government job and knowing what it is like to work with the state! I also think that knowing how to read and write official rules will be very beneficial to my future.


NRES 280: HAZWOPER Certification

This semester, I am taking NRES 280: Hazardous waste management.  Through this course, I will receive a certification for the 40 Hour HAZWOPER.  This class is a combination of lectures and hands on activities.  Some weeks, we get to put on protective level A suits to get the full experience (pictured below) and other weeks we get to learn about how to handle a hazardous situation.  The hands on experience is very fun; some weeks we get to put a puzzle together and play Operation to get used to how the suit feels and how hard it is to do simple tasks in them.  Through this course, I have learned a lot of useful information.  When applying for jobs, many of them want you to have this certification.  It is free to take this course! I highly recommend getting this experience.


PPE suit


New Zealand

Kia Ora! I have just finished up my fourth week of my semester abroad in Christchurch, New Zealand at Lincoln University, and it has been the most magical month of my life. The move over here was pretty seamless, and the introduction to the Kiwi way of life has been nothing short of amazing. I have already been on multiple adventures, from swimming with dolphins to sea kayaking to visiting Fiordland National Park, and I have found that New Zealand feels like something out of a fairy tale.


I would absolutely recommend both New Zealand and Lincoln University as a place to study abroad for the semester, especially for NRES students. There are so many courses that would easily transfer, as Lincoln’s primary academic disciplines include agricultural and environmental sciences. I am currently taking Applied Agroforestry, Engineering Precision Agriculture, and New Zealand Biodiversity. All of the classes offer field trips throughout the semester, allowing me to get a really insightful look at the different approaches and outlooks on environmental sciences. Not only are the academics great, but New Zealand’s perceptions on ecological health far exceeds that of America’s. There are only two feedlots in the entire country, and almost all of their meat is grass-fed and free range, making for a VERY pleasant culinary experience. Not only that, but recycling is a norm, you are required to bring your own bags to the supermarket, and energy usage is much lower than that of the traditional American consumer.


If you are thinking about studying abroad for a semester, I HIGHLY recommend it. My outlook on life has changed dramatically and I am so appreciative of the opportunities that Purdue Ag Study Abroad has given me. Also, because NZ is fairly similar to American culture, it is pretty easy to assimilate and it was a pretty easy adjustment to everything, other than driving on the left side of the road and using Celsius!


The EEE Combined Degree

Today I wanted to write about Purdue’s Environmental and Ecological Engineering Combined Degree (MSEEE) program. This is a new opportunity for students at Purdue to earn a non-thesis master’s degree a year after completing their undergraduate work – this is why you’ll often hear it called a 4+1 program. As an NRES student, you’ll be eligible to take part in MSEEE.

Here’s a breakdown of the logistics:

  1. Apply during your 6th semester as an undergrad student
  2. Have a 3.25 GPA
  3. After being accepted, take 9 credits of graduate (500+) level courses as a senior before you graduate
  4. Take your remaining 21 credits of courses and seminars during a 5th year at Purdue

I graduated from NRES last year and am currently in my final two months of the MSEEE program. NRES prepared me incredibly well for a career in environmental science. I look forward to returning to my job with the US Dept. of Transportation (check out one of my earlier blogposts if you want to know more about it!) and my position requires me to work closely with both scientists and engineers. This encouraged me to work toward a graduate degree in engineering and I’ve found the program to fit very well with my personal interests and career goals. Like NRES, EEE is an interdisciplinary program, so there is plenty of opportunity to specifically study in your environmental area of focus. In addition to your typical 3-credit courses, all graduate students in EEE take six 1-credit modules that each last five weeks and cover a wide range of topics each year. This year’s modules included courses in modeling complex industrial systems, photochemical reactor theory, membranes for water filtration, engineering ethics, and environmental compliance regulation. You will also take seminars that meet each week for presentations from industry professionals, faculty from Purdue and other universities, as well as graduate students conducting their own research. As a grad student, I also had the opportunity to conduct my own research with a lab in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources.


In addition to a great lineup of courses, MSEEE introduces you to an incredible group of faculty and graduate students who want you to succeed. Being used to the friendly nature of the NRES program where everyone knows everyone’s name, I was excited to find a similarly welcoming feel in the EEE graduate program. There are plenty of opportunities to connect with faculty and other students in and outside of the classroom. The EEE Graduate Student Organization even offers monthly events for students and professors such as intramural sports, ice skating, happy hours, and apple picking – I included a picture from a trip to the corn maze below!


If you might be interested in the program, here are a few suggestions:

  • Check out the program’s website on the EEE page
  • Consider the EEE minor. As an NRES student this will introduce you to EEE students, faculty, and courses
  • If you want to try out EEE classes but not do a minor, there are some EEE classes that can count towards your NRES degree
  • Take higher level calculus and chemistry courses. This will better prepare you for graduate engineering classes
  • Talk to a student who is in the program. You can always send me an email too!

While the combined degree isn’t for everyone, I was excited to find a program that fit so well into my own education and career goals. If you feel the same way, I highly encourage you look into the program more. Let’s finish out the semester strong!


Dealing with Difficulty

At some point in your college career, you will be faced with difficulty of some sort. It may be family or friend problems, a death in the family, struggling to pass a class, or if you’re me, you’ll find yourself unexpectedly diagnosed with a serious, severe chronic illness. It knocked me off my feet and I found myself unable to focus in class and missing class constantly due to doctors visits and hospital stays. But, I still managed to keep up with my classes and make it through the next two semesters! Here are some tips I’ve found helpful for when you hit rough patches during college:

  1. Communicate with your professors! Tell them what is going on and let them know how it is affecting you. Professors are people too and they understand that life happens, so most are very understanding and willing to work with you.
  2. Be flexible. Not everything is going to go according to plan and you make have to make academic and personal adjustments. That’s ok, you’ll have to find your new normal, but be willing to work with others to accomplish what you want.
  3. Know what is going on in your classes and continue to do all the work, if possible. Read the syllabus and keep up with the homework and assignments that you can. When you work with professors and show that you care about their class and are still putting work into it, they are much more willing to work with you around your difficulties.
  4. Seek help. Difficulties are traumatizing, perhaps both physically and mentally. There are many resources on campus to help get you through these times, such as the Disability Resource Center, CAPS therapists, support groups, and CARE services.
  5. Don’t try to deal with it alone. Difficulties often feel isolating and like you are the only person experiencing your problem. But talking to friends and family can help alleviate stress and frustration, and you may find that people have gone through similar experiences.
  6. Don’t feel guilty about missing out. I’m a 21-year-old college senior, and instead of finding myself at the bar with friends, catching a basketball game, or attending an Environmental Science Club meeting, I found myself hooked up to machines in hospital rooms. For a long time I felt guilty and sad about missing events, and oftentimes still do. But your physical and mental health is more important than college experiences and should be treated as such.

If you have any more suggestions, feel free to comment below!