Wow, what an awesome summer. My understanding of theoretical ecology and mathematical modeling increased 100-fold. I am incredibly grateful that I was given the opportunity to participate in this program and would recommend it to anyone interested in math and ecology. I think this is really the sort of program that NSF should be funding like it funds REU programs. The scientific community would be better for it.
The whole experience was just the right level of intensity for me. I thought hard and worked hard but still had time to enjoy all the field station had to offer for recreation and entertainment. It was a great setting in which to discuss some of the personal issues surrounding grad school and academia with people who are older and wiser than me. I know you can never be 100% prepared for what life will throw at you, but I’m doing my best to plan a path for my graduate career.
This last week was especially busy because were doing small group projects with presentations on Wednesday and papers due on Friday. For my group project I spent a lot of time counting seeds among poison ivy in the forest. I think I escaped with only a small patch of itchy spots on the back of my leg.
I attempted science under the influence of hard cider (in search of inspiration for my paper) on Thursday night but all I did was fall asleep so I don’t think I deserve a new science badge for that one yet.
In the end the people really made this program excellent. I knew I’d be something of a small fish in a big pond but thankfully none of the big fish tried to eat me. I really don’t thrive in competitive environments that lack cooperation.
I also met a really great new friend this summer. While I enjoy meeting people who lead dramatically different lives than my own, it is comforting to find someone with whom you have an astonishing lot in common. I think my closest friends are people who inspire me to be a better person through the way they live their lives.
"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What!
You too? I thought I was the only one." -C.S. Lewis
So, after a summer of fun, friendship, and a return to academic life I'm moving on to grad school! This week I'm apartment hunting in Big City with my partner and we're moving our stuff here in 2 weeks. I have a month until classes start. These are exciting times ahead. :-)