SEA Currents: Woods Hole Partnership Education Program
New Experiences in New Places
My name is Amber Durand, and I am a rising junior at Howard University, majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry. In my quest to find a summer internship, I was very open to exploring the different branches of science. One afternoon, my mentor pulled me aside and encouraged me to apply to the Woods Hole Partnership Education Program. I had never heard of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, but after reviewing the program’s website and contacting the program director, I decided to apply. Having had no experience in ocean or environmental sciences, I was quite unsure about my standing in the application process. When I received the acceptance email, I decided that, out of all the programs to which I had applied, this was the one of which I wanted to be a part.
It has been exactly one month since my cohorts and I arrived in Woods Hole, and it has been an honor to be a part of the PEP program. Throughout this period, I have met and befriended 15 incredibly talented individuals, who all share one goal: to bring about change by contributing to relevant research. I have also learned about many aspects of oceanography during this course. The PEP staff and the course professors have been very kind and nurturing. Their passion for the environment and for us as future scientists was portrayed through the lectures in each module. Our module assignments included data analysis using a coding program called RStudio. Although this was my first time using a coding program, I truly enjoyed learning how to create graphics for the statistical analysis of great amounts of data. It is a skill that I am sure will be useful in my future career.
For the rest of this summer, my cohorts and I will be focusing on the research portion of the program. My mentor is Dr. Jessica Mark Welch of the Marine Biological Laboratory, and I will be working with her on the gut microbiome. The purpose of this research is to determine why microbes act differently, based on whether they are isolated or whether they are interacting with other microbes. Our hypothesis is that this action has something to do with the way microbes are organized in relation to one another in microbial communities. We will be developing methods for preparing and imaging samples of gut microbes in marine organisms using an imaging technique called CLASI-FISH. We will also be testing different methods of fixation for host-associated microbial communities. I am excited to continue my journey as a PEP student and look forward to being a part of the Woods Hole science community as a summer intern!