Rebekah Morris '11
Employer: Bucknell Geology Department. Lewisburg, PA and field sites in Tyrone, PA and Bedford, PA.
Internship Title: Independent student research for an undergraduate senior thesis in geology.
Describe your duties:
I worked on an independent undergraduate senior thesis, focusing on the role of biotics in the removal of manganese from passive acid mine drainage treatment sites in Western Pennsylvania. My work involved assembling onsite 24 foot long PVC pipe reactors to establish microbial growth rates, as well laboratory batch reactor tests to characterize the effect of fungi and bacteria on the removal rates of manganese. Imaging with the Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope and analysis using Energy-Dispersive X-ray spectroscopy aided in identifying fungi and bacteria in manganese oxide coatings from field samples. The change in manganese concentrations over time in the batch reactors was measured using inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectroscopy and graphed to determine the rates of removal. I secured funding for the research through the Katherine Mabis Mckenna Foundation. Findings will be reported in a written senior thesis and presented at the University's Kalman student research symposium.
What did you enjoy most about your internship?
I have enjoyed all aspects of my research experience at Bucknell, including proposal writing, conducting field studies, laboratory analysis, technical writing, and communication of results. It has been a valuable experience to develop a project and a timeline to answer a question in which I am interested, and to see the project through to completion.
What was the most difficult aspect of the internship?
Everything that can go wrong will go wrong. Learning the truth in this statement in my field experiments was the hardest part of my research. I ended up having to redesign the scope of my project at the start of the summer, and then at the end of the summer the reactors in the field failed due to unfortunate circumstances. With only a week left of summer I had to reinstall them at another field site and leave them up for until the end up September. When I returned they too had failed, and it was hard to come away from all of that work will no real field data.
How did your experience at Bucknell prepare you for your internship?
All of my upper level geology classes, with large field based projects and technical lab reports, helped prepare me for conducting and reporting my research. My research and thesis have helped prepare me for either a job in environmental consulting, having to work out in the field and write reports for clients, or for a Master's thesis degree in Environmental Engineering, doing a much more in-depth thesis and research.
What recommendations do you have for other students considering doing an internship?
This wasn't an internship, but for students considering doing research, I would suggest talking to professors. Asking them about their research, and reading scientific journals in their field of study is a great way to learn what research is currently going on. I developed my research topic after talking with my adviser and readying through numerous Applied Geochemistry articles on acid mine drainage.