Juniata College offers many hands-on research experiences during the semester, as well as summer assistantships. Along with many other Juniata College students, Hannah Brenneman ’12, of Huntingdon, PA, participated in a summer research program with Norris Muth, assistant professor of biology. She shares her unique experience on research with black walnut trees.
What interested you in research at Juniata?
I was interested in doing research because it’s a good way to establish relationships with professors. Also, it was important to me that I experience first-hand what research is like in my particular field of interest. I wanted to know if I’d be truly happy doing lab-based research in biology as my career, and graduate schools like to see (some even require) research experience as an undergraduate student.
What was the research project/who did you work with?
I worked with Dr. Norris Muth of Juniata’s Biology department. The project dealt with measuring and analyzing the effects of the toxic chemicals that black walnut trees produce to limit competition with species growing around them. Different students went out in the field and collected specimens. I basically kept the plants alive (watered them) and helped take physical and photosynthetic measurements after the plants had begun to grow.
What part of the work was the most interesting for you?
The most interesting part of the research was seeing how much of an effect black walnut leaves have on surrounding species of plants. People often take for granted how complex plants are and it’s interesting to me to see nature working in such a way.
Do you think you will continue some type of research in the future?
I do hope to continue research in the future, both with Dr. Muth and maybe in the physiology lab because I’m interested in pursuing a career in nutrition.
What was the most meaningful aspect you took away from your experience?
I really value to connection I made with Dr. Muth and just getting some experience in research in general. I think it’s important to do research to find out if you’re truly happy and interested in the things you’re learning in different classes. Sometimes things are interesting on paper but completely different hands-on, and research provides a chance for you to figure that out.
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I don’t really want to be doing research in a lab for the rest of my life. Despite this, I still find biology very interesting and am currently exploring different branches and applied aspects of the field. Botany and nutrition-related topics of biology are most interesting to me right now, but I’ll probably find something new and interesting before too long!
-Sam Stroup ’12, Juniata Online Journalist