Redefining the Classroom

Grab Hold of Your Future

Rachel Claucherty-Arnold

What is your area of study and your short or long-term professional plans?

My area of study is environmental health and right now I am trying to get a internship in Phoenix, Arizona. I have one more semester and then I graduate in December. I want to stay in Michigan, move to Phoenix, or maybe even somewhere like Alaska where I work in water sampling.

What attracts you to this program?

I really like the sciences and enjoy my discipline’s environmental aspects. I like working in a lab but really enjoy working outside at the same time. This degree will allow me to do just that, along with providing me opportunities for travel and new experiences.

What kind of field or lab experiences have you enjoyed so far through the program?

I can never get enough lab experience. I’d like even more before graduating. The labs I’ve enjoyed the most so far are quantitative analysis, biochemistry, organic chemistry, and GIS/GPS. Quantitative analysis lab stresses the precision of your work. A deviation of even parts per million can affect your grade. Geographic Information Science (GIS) uses GPS satellite coordinates to correlate data to any specific area on Earth. Basically you tie together data with geographical location. It’s a powerful tool used in scientific investigations, resource management, asset management, environmental impact assessment, urban planning, even criminology, history, sales, and marketing.

Have you had a neat moment that makes all of the studying and working worthwhile?

Working with Judy Westrick and Deb Stai in an attempt to culture the fungus, Blastomyces Dermatitidis, which can cause infections in humans. Spores from the fungus get inhaled into the lungs and spread throughout the body to infect the skin, bone, genitourinary tract, and brain. The incubation period is 30 to 100 days, although an infected person may show no symptoms. Evaluating a lab method to cultivate this fungus became my senior thesis project. More about that below.

Have you had any summer interning experiences or jobs?

Last summer I worked with a company called Health Air in Livonia. We monitored air quality where asbestos removal was taking place, and went to various sites throughout the summer and managed the projects.

What was your senior thesis project, and what motivated you to select that topic?

A partner and I attempted to culture blastomyces dermatitidis from a sample taken on Drummond Island. This had already been attempted by a team before us using a different method, but unfortunately they were unsuccessful. But in science you don’t give up, so when Dr. Judy Westrick informed me of the project, I was interested immediately. What the study before ours tried to do was find an easy way to develop a culture quickly for subsequent testing. A more efficient way of growing Blastomyces cultures would speed up environmental testing. However we, too, had no luck at culturing the fungus. The project will be carried on by another student team trying a new method. But in science, a non-result is just as important as a favorable outcome. Maybe the next team will come up with something that may lead to a more efficient testing method.

What are some of you outside interests?

My outside interests include such things as reading, watching movies, exercising, traveling, canoeing, hiking, and hanging out with friends. I really enjoy being outside and trying new things.

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