Rachael Enjoys Both of her Passions

Rachael SaretteName: Rachael

Year: Junior

Major: Mathematics, Environmental Science

CFS Program: Field Studies in Environment, Science, and Sustainability

As a child I hated sitting still and staying inside all day, but as I grew up I thought being stuck inside for work would be inevitable. However, interning at the Chicago Botanic Garden has helped me see the possibilities of combining my love for the outdoors with my research interests in Math and Environmental Science.
At the Chicago Botanic Garden, I am helping on the Echinacea project fitting exponential sine functions to the flowering schedule of individual Echinacea heads found in prairie remnants in Minnesota, which is a long fancy way of saying that I am applying my mathematical skills to a real world situation and doing something that I absolutely love. This project is helping me understand the different aspects present in a complete experiment and it is developing my skills analyzing data. The group of scientists working on the Echinacea project has made me feel welcome and like a valuable member of the team. While this project does require most of my work to be on a computer, the lab is in the middle of the garden, so if I need a 5-minute break to recharge and refocus, I can take a quick walk and see some amazing plants. The garden is also a great place to meet many passionate researchers, citizens, scientists and other students, and I’ve had the opportunity to talk to different people about research projects and grad school experiences over lunch.
Besides enjoying my job, I’ve also found my field studies class to be very interesting. As an environmentalist, my response to the question of “Should we protect the environment and pursue sustainable development?” is “Of course!” but in this class we have been discussing different aspects of this debate that I don’t always think of such as: “what is the impact on different socioeconomic classes?” and “how do you define sustainable development”.  I’ve found that the combination of this class and MY internship have really started to get me thinking about how I plan on pursuing my goals and interests in my post-graduate career, and which path I believe will leave the best impact on the environment.