Patterns and pastures.

In the recent weeks, I passed my comprehensive exam, visited with a fantastic Carabidae specialist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (another #loveyourtaxonomist post is likely to follow about this trip), and camped at one of the most beautiful places in PA (“It feels like we are hiking into ‘The Hobbit!’” said a young hiker about one of the trails). These were all great experiences, but I have been feeling somewhat impostory for various reasons associated with all three of these happenings. As wonderful as it is to be finished with comps, for example, it is a draining process that is meant to help one determine the knowledge they still need to acquire prior to receiving the doctorate. That experience, followed by some time spent with someone with 34 years of experience with Carabids, has tempted me to get lost in my inadequacies and question my chosen career path.

However, this morning I read Jonathan Wai’s post on Quartz about the importance of mathematical training to the development of creativity. One of my insecurities about being in an entomology program is my interdisciplinary background: I have a BS in Soil and Water Science (which, due to the hydrology, was very intensive in calculus), and a MS in Environmental Studies. In reading Dr. Wai’s post, I was reminded that the training I have had in the past may have been helpful in developing skills in pattern recognition and problem solving, both of which are invaluable in interpreting data. I haven’t had a strong background in biology, and at times this is very apparent (e.g., in my comprehensive exams), but I do think the disciplines in which I am trained are still very relevant to my current degree. I’ve commented before on my interest in being a well rounded scientist, but at times, it is nice to have a reminder from an expert that developing skills in one area will prove useful regardless of how your career path proceeds.

I am also currently putting together a poster of my MS data for the Ecological Society of America meeting in a few weeks, and being reminded of how I became interested in entomology. For that project, I looked at arthropods below different tree species in deforested cattle pastures of central Nicaragua. As I am looking at pictures of insects and bucolic landscapes, I am excited about the possibilities that this degree will bring. Even though this data is 6 years old, this is the first time I will be presenting it outside of San José State University, and I’m excited about sharing the results with others and catching up with old friends. Onward and upward, doing science!


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