Tell us a bit about yourself – what stage of your PhD are you in and what’s your project about?
I’m a third year Ph.D. student and my research focuses on the physiological and genomic response to climate change stressors like rising ocean temperatures and increasing ocean acidification conditions. My field work is mainly based at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology station on Coconut Island, Oahu, Hawai’i and the Richard B. Gump Research station in Mo’orea, French Polynesia. As stress events on reefs continue to increase in magnitude and frequency, my work aims to elucidate the potential for environmental memory and what mechanisms may be underlying that process of acclimatization.
What does a typical day or week look like for you?
While in Rhode Island, a “typical” week would include a variety of laboratory work, teaching an undergraduate laboratory, data analysis, coding, and writing. While in the field, a “typical” day would include either scuba diving or snorkeling to collect coral fragments to bring them back to the laboratory to collect physiological data on their performance. I work in a dynamic environment, where projects are constantly changing and developing. A “typical” week in March doesn’t look anything like a “typical” week in August, and that is one of my favorite parts of the job!
What’s one thing that you’ve enjoyed the most during your PhD?
My favorite thing about my PhD experience is the lab I’m a part of – The Putnam Lab at the University of Rhode Island. I can’t say enough about my advisor, labmates, and undergraduates at URI. I’m grateful to be supported by, to be learning from, and to be pushed by them every day.
What’s been the most challenging part of it?
The most challenging part for me has been learning to balance teaching a class, taking my own classes, field work, and writing my dissertation at the same time. There are a lot of moving parts while completing a PhD that require time and effort, so learning to prioritize has become critical.
Where do you see yourself 5 years after completing your PhD?
My long-term career goal is to integrate this eco-physiology and epigenetic research with conservation efforts in order to create more effective restoration plans. After finishing my graduate education, I plan to pursue a full-time research position where I have access to diving programs, and science communication and outreach platforms to create inspired change and lead research-based ocean advocacy.
What’s one piece of advice that you’d offer students that are thinking of doing a PhD?
Make sure the program, the research, and the advisor fit your needs! Your personal life outside of graduate school is just as important and should be supported throughout your time at the school/in the laboratory.
What makes your university a good place to study?
The University of Rhode Island is a well established research institution, where I have access to a variety of laboratory technology, a scuba diving program, an extensive marine biology undergraduate program, several ocean-related graduate programs, and faculty in my department with similar specialties. Although my research doesn’t take place on the East Coast, I love that URI is on the water!
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Outside of research, my time is taken up by outdoor activities like hiking and running. As long as I’m outside, I’m happy! I also work at a nearby microbrewery, where I get to learn about and enjoy craft beer on the weekends.
Want to know more about Emma?
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