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Jumping into science

04/30/2014

Morgan Nankivell '14 of Shirley, Mass., loves science, but she didn't know that about herself until she came to MCLA. An environmental studies major who minors in biology and chemistry, she never considered a science major until she learned about the College's environmental science program.

"I had a proverbial 'ah-ha' moment, and realized that this was something I could really enjoy. I had always loved nature and was a huge animal geek, so why not go to school for just that?" Nankivell said.

She's glad she decided to take the required "Introduction to Chemistry" class her very first semester as a freshman.  

"Sometimes people tend to put off this class because it seems daunting, but if I hadn't jumped right in, I wouldn't have known that I actually liked it," Nandivell explained. "It's also very useful across so many different fields in science, and could potentially give me a lot more job opportunities than someone without the extra chemistry experience. I hope I'll have the chance to use some of my lab skills once I enter the work force."

Although she plans to pursue opportunities as a lab or field technician, as well as conservation and educational positions, Nankivell is open minded with regard to her career path, as she's interested in many options her degree will afford her.

This semester, Nankivell traveled with biology professor Dr. Anne Goodwin to the U.S. Virgin Islands to study the effect the long-spined urchin has on the Caribbean's coral ecosystem. Last semester, she did independent research that involved dissecting nests belonging to the Veery bird.

"The environmental science department also has some great labs where you can contribute to ongoing data collection in the field, and have the opportunity to work with years' worth of data from that field work," Nankivell said.

Another project she enjoyed was to plant native tree species along the eroding banks of the Hoosic River - an opportunity that came through her participation in the Green Living Seminar course.

"Having these opportunities allowed me to become an effective writer in many ways. I have also been able to get my feet wet with a variety of different research techniques and procedures. I think, most importantly, though, these experiences have made me a much more confident person," Nankivell said.

As a sophomore, Nankivell started the Equestrian Club at MCLA. By doing so, she learned how to mobilize people and get things done. "I learned a lot about persistence," she added.

What's the best thing about MCLA? Nankivell says it's the College's size.

"You get to know your classmates and professors pretty well, which can be extremely advantageous," she said. "If students want to try something new, start an organization, or get involved in the community, this is a great place to do it. Because it is a small school, MCLA offers a lot to many more students than a huge school may be able to."

Also, "So many professors have been extremely helpful and insightful, and are really willing to help you out if you are willing to put in a bit of effort. It's wonderful to have people in your corner."

She advises freshman to be wary of being lax. "The sooner you start to engage in your education, the more you will get out of it."