Amanda Heidt, Invertebrate Lab
Undergraduate: University of California, Santa Cruz (Major: Marine Biology, Minor: Chemistry), 2013
Work Experience Before MLML: My first job in college was working in an invertebrate reproductive ecology lab at Long Marine Lab, as well as managing the on-site teaching laboratory. I tutored several upper division science classes and functioned as a mentor for academically-disadvantaged students. In addition, I volunteered extensively both as an undergrad and after graduation, allowing me to work closely with many agencies (MBA, USGS, NOAA, UCSC, MLML) and with many species, including otters, elephant seals, and cnidarians.
Why did you decide to pursue marine science? I’ve always been a very outdoor-oriented person, even as a child. I remember appreciating the constancy of the ocean when I was younger. The more I looked at it, the more curious I became about what went on beneath the surface, or even just in the intertidal. I dabbled with the idea of pursuing marine biology but ironically enough feared the math and science. Fortunately, once I took my first general marine bio class in community college, I was hooked.
What are you studying and why is it interesting and important to you? Being a first year, I’ve yet to formulate a proper thesis, but more generally I’m interested in Invertebrate Ecology. I like to tell people that inverts are just as interesting as your charismatic megafauna (whales, dolphins, otters, sharks), you just need to know a bit more about them. For example, the firing of a jelly’s pneumatocyst (stinging cell) is the fastest biologically produced speed in the world! That’s crazy!
What are the most rewarding and challenging aspects of graduate school? Again, I’m new to graduate school, but I can tell you what I find rewarding/challenging about academia in general. For me, they’re often similar. While it can be difficult to manage, higher learning provides a level of independence, autonomy, and reliance on critical thinking that pushes you to evolve as a scientist. It requires active learning and no small amount of motivation. But, it’s high risk, high reward!
What advice do you have for someone who wants to get in to marine science? Get yourself involved in any way you can. It can be difficult at first when you don’t have a lot of experience, but all it takes is one yes before a world of opportunity opens up to you. Plus, sampling a variety of projects will let you know pretty quickly what you like and what you don’t. Be persistent. Everyone has a lot of demands on their time and sometimes an email might go otherwise unanswered.