I met my research mentor, Becky Forgrave, because she was the instructor for my ecology lab, a graduation requirement in the environmental science department. I connected with Becky on a personal level first. She was extremely friendly and we would chat before class about similarities in our undergraduate pathway and Becky’s graduate work. Growing up on the shores of Lake Erie, I’ve always had an interest in water and intrinsically understood the importance of clean water to an ecosystem and community. So, Becky’s work studying Nine Mile Run, an urban Pittsburgh waterway, appealed to me. It was Becky, along with Dr. Emily Elliot, the lecturer for my ecology class, that encouraged me to apply for the Brackenridge fellowship and helped me shape my project.
My advice to other students about how to connect with a research mentor is to form personal connections with the professors and graduate students teaching your classes. Not only will they be more willing to help you with work for the class, they’ll be a valuable resource for identifying other opportunities as well. I’ve had several professors pass along job opportunities or recommend me for experiences I wouldn’t have heard of or considered otherwise. None of that would have been possible had I not taken the time to seek out the people teaching me.
After I graduate, I plan on seeking employment in the environmental sector likely with a government organization such as the EPA or USGS. Depending on my experiences in this role, I may choose to go back to graduate school. Prior to graduation, I would like to connect with people who work or worked for those organizations as well as individuals who chose to continue their education. My professors and academic advisors in the chemistry and geology and environmental science departments have been kind enough to share their experiences with me up to this point. Moving forward, I hope to continue to draw upon their knowledge and connections, as well as actively seek to make new connections.
One new connection I’ve made was through the Brackenridge alumni page on Pitt Connect. I connected with Matt Grey, a sustainability and climate action professional with a diverse educational background. He shared a little about his background with me, and it was really helpful. I know moving forward that Brackenridge will continue helping me build connections with a broad group of people.