Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) 2018 undergraduate summer researcher, Cassie Stark, is a junior at James Madison University and a biology major. She wrote about her KBS Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) project working with the Conner Lab.
When I began to apply for Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs around the United States, I could never picture a reality where I actually got one. As the months rolled by and summer began to rapidly approach, I still hadn’t heard any news about being accepted in an REU program. I began to come to terms with the fact that I would be staying in Harrisonburg for the summer and do much of the same thing I did last summer, living at school and working a boring, pointless job as a waitress, which sounded quite miserable.
Over spring break, I got an email from The Conner Lab asking to interview for a position as an REU student at Michigan State University Kellogg Biological Station (KBS). I was a large combination of shocked, excited, and scared. After the phone interview I began to let myself play with the possibility that I could spend my summer doing research, living on a lake (FOR FREE), and get paid. Eventually this internship was something that I really wanted. I began to research KBS in my free time and look up things in the area, or in Kalamazoo. After about a week I heard back and found out that I got the position. I was stoked, and honestly, pretty proud of myself. Regardless of this amazing opportunity I was about to embark on, leaving behind my friends and family for a summer gave me a bad dose of premeditated FOMO (fear of missing out). In addition, I felt anxious about moving 10 hours away from home to a town, let alone a state, I’d never been to before.
I am from a small town, and attend James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It is only a 30-minute drive from home and my dad is a professor at the school. Wednesday night dinners and grocery trips with dad had become a regular part of my life at school. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m a homebody of sorts. I’ve always been close to home and it felt both scary and exciting to go somewhere new on my own.
When I arrived at KBS I felt like a freshman all over again. I entered a foreign land, filled with foreign people. However, I can confidently say KBS became my home away from home shockingly fast. It started with liking my job. My love for fieldwork and research continued to grow, and I began to feel surrounded by people who love the same things I do and who are like-minded. In addition, I got to experience working in a field that I love and that I want to continue to pursue. This internship felt purposeful, and I built a skill set that I can apply to my future career. In the Conner Lab, we have about five different experiments going, which involve looking at fitness characteristics of radish weed and evolutionary processes. I was able to do something different almost every day and gain hands on experience in the lab, greenhouse, and field.
However, apart from my research, KBS began to feel like home because of the atmosphere of the community. It also helps that I live steps away from one of the clearest and bluest lakes I have ever seen. But most of all, KBS has become home to me because of the friendships that I’ve managed to make. My friends have massively impacted my experience here and made this summer one to remember. So, here’s to KBS, biology and branching out of my comfort zone and saying goodbye to Virginia and finding room in my heart for a new place to call home.