Trains,Trees, & Trials

There is palpable tension in the air at the Chicago Botanic Garden: interns, pressed for time, gather as much data as possible and frantically enter it on spreadsheets as the clock runs down for the summer. Some of us are taking early trains into the Garden, and leaving on a later train in the afternoon to get more work done. Some of us are still taking pictures and videos for our final presentations. Most of us are hoping, really hoping, that we have enough data for meaningful results. But we are all feeling the crunch.

During these last few weeks, we are all trying our best to get the data in and work with our mentors to interpret it. For me these last two weeks will be just as hectic. Last week, we ran the first frost simulation on seedlings to test their tolerance to freezing temperatures. A full tray went in for 24 hours, alternating between an acclimation temperature and freezing temperature. After a day in the growth chamber, we inspected them and found that most were alive. And vibrant! These results were not what I expected, but there’s just enough time to adjust the protocol and try again. I’m optimistic that the second and third times’ the charm.

Since this is my last contribution to the Garden’s REU blog, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on the time I’ve been here. It’s been a summer of trains, trees (and plants), and trials. I’ve enjoyed our field trips to the Field Museum, and Morton Arboretum. Both of which also included workshops that were very informative and important for our professional development. Commuting to the Garden took some time to get used to, but every day was worth it. I would commute to work anytime if it meant working in a beautiful place like this one. Finally, while the work is rewarding, it was sometimes a challenge to manage time, tasks, and making practical decisions about methodology and experimentation. And that’s when I feel fortunate to have great PIs and mentor to help keep me focused, and guide me through the inevitable bumps-on-the-road encountered during experimentation.

It’s been a great summer, Chicago!