Lauren Cromie

Briefly describe your applied learning experience: 

Under the guidance of Dr. Scharf, I currently study the ear bones, or otoliths, of red drum fish. Each otolith has rings on it, and by counting the banding, I can figure out how old the fish is. This process is similar to counting tree rings, and each band represents one daily cycle. I observe the rings under a scanning electron microscope and measure the width of each band. In addition to its date of birth, I am also trying to find out the fish’s relative growth rate. If a ring on the otolith is larger than the others, then the fish grew at a faster rate on that day. Ultimately, my research seeks to find patterns in red drum growth rate during early life development.

Did you receive any grants or other funding for your applied learning experience? : 
Scholarship or Fellowship
How did you get involved in this applied learning experience and what did you hope to gain from it?: 

Through applied learning, I hoped to gain practical application for the concepts that I learned in lectures, so I sought out a Directed Individual Study (DIS) with Dr. Kamel’s lab and conducted DNA analysis of barnacles. I learned a variety of research techniques and obtained a better understanding of molecular biology. But through that experience, I discovered that genetics is not a topic I’m passionate about. Because I enjoy learning about macro-organisms, I pursued a DIS with a fisheries professor. I currently work with Dr. Scharf, and during my first semester in his lab, I helped his graduate students with their research by collecting data and prepping samples. Now, I have my own project that will culminate into my Honors Thesis. 

What did you gain from this experience? What was challenging? What did you learn?: 

By engaging in applied learning, I’m always improving my communication and problem-solving skills. I've learned how to confidently work independently, and I will admit that working with otoliths is sometimes tiresome because I need to repeat the same methods for each and every single one. But ultimately, this experience is allowing me to finally contribute to scientific research in a real, meaningful way.

In what way will this experience make you a more viable candidate when you are seeking a job or applying for graduate study?: 

Through these experiences, I have gained invaluable skills that will seperate me from other candidates such as data collection, sample preparation, and scientific diving. I am also connected to professors and graduate students that are researching the same topics that I want to pursue in my future studies.