I've spent the first few weeks of summer driving around the United States! I've visited friends in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and in Omaha, Nebraska. I was originally planning on driving to Canada and going skiing in Banff, but that turned out to be a much longer drive than I initially thought, and I ran out of gas at Mount Rushmore. Fortunately for me, two maids at the Palmer's Gulch Ski Resort (just down the mountain) had just quit, so I put my car in neutral and rolled into the parking lot. I'm working here for a week to pick up some extra cash, and then heading to Brookings, South Dakota, where I will be researching as a part of the USDA Biochar Undergraduate Fellowship.
I made it to Brookings okay and picked up Kristen Lacy at the airport. We are staying in an eight-person suite in the South Dakota State Honors dorm. Our roommates are fellow engineers from around the country. Some girls from the SDSU chapter of Alpha Omega Epsilon, an all engineering sorority have taken us in and shown Kristen and me around campus. The more we've hung out with them, the more excited about the possibility of having a chapter of AOE on MSU's campus. We are currently in the process of filling out paperwork and meeting with founders of other chapters in order to get that up and running by the time school starts in August.
As far as the REU goes, I am really enjoying my work. I am researching in the Electrical Engineering department under Dr. Songxin Tan. Our lab is underground, has a cement floor nine feet thick and radiation-shielding insulation. My lab partner, an electrical engineering student at SDSU, and I are using a Class 3BLidar Laser and an Infrared Laser to measure the depolarization values of aging corn leaves. Once we have a baseline measurement for healthy leaves, we can start using Lidar to start measuring the depol value of whole plants, and eventually, entire cornfields and forests. We can compare these new values to samples we know to be healthy, and determine whether or not the large-scale plots are optimally fit. By the end of the summer, we plan to be able to look at a field/forest with one sweep of the laser and give a full diagnostic report on its status. We will be able to tell if it is getting enough water, receiving enough sunlight, and growing at the right temperature. We know that this is an ambitious goal, but we are confident that we can do it!
So far this has been a very physically and academically stimulating summer, and I am excited to see what the rest of it holds! Over the Fourth of July weekend, a group of REU students is planning a trip to the Black Hills so I can catch up with my friends from the KOA and go rock climbing and water skiing! At the risk of ending on an incredibly cheesy note, I just want to say I'm super grateful to the Shackouls Honors College and the Presidential Scholars Program. I know that there is no way that I would have any of the amazing opportunities that I've had this summer and throughout my college experience without all of the help and support and connections that I have gotten and made in Griffis. :)