Brett Steck, Esther Jeninga and Dean Wink are at the different stages of their undergraduate study at University of Wisconsin Whitewater. While they are not even in the same major, they do UG Research together, in an interdisciplinary lab to study and monitor Landslides.
It has given Brett the tools to pursue Seismic studies in Grad School. It has expanded opportunities and given Esther a competitive edge as an Art Major, and Dean the focus and roadmap for his UG study.
The podcast focuses on their experiences doing Undergraduate Research at UWW on Landslide monitoring.
Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:
Episode Title: Brett Steck, Esther Jeninga and Dean Wink of UW Whitewater: UG Research to Monitor Landslides.
Brett Steck, Esther Jeninga and Dean Wink are at the different stages of their undergraduate study.
While they are not even in the same major, they do UG Research together, in an interdisciplinary lab to study and monitor Landslides.
Brett, Esther and Dean join us on our podcast to talk about their Undergraduate Research experiences, their work on Landslide project, and how it is making a difference to them.
In particular, we discuss the following with them:
Topics discussed in this episode:
Esther Jeninga is a Senior studying Art at UW Whitewater.
Dean Wink is a Sophomore at UW Whitewater.
Memorable Quote: “And working with people of other disciplines has been great as well, like Brett said, and like, getting to talk to people who are not in Art Major are not always in the same building that I'm in all the time with all the other majors.” Esther Jeninga.
Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.
Similar Episodes: College Experiences
Transcript of the episode’s audio.
The idea of the project is to create a device that will help monitor triggers of landslides. And so we've worked with, it's in a combination of the geology, physics, computer science departments here at Whitewater. And so our role is the geologists rather, DNI. Our main roles are creating physical models to test different centers within sandbox experiments. So we use the sandbox experiments to mimic the bluffs of Lake Michigan.
That is Brett Steck, a recent graduate of UWW with a Bachelor’s degree in Geology and a minor in Physics.
Hello! I am your host Venkat Raman.
Brett Steck, Esther Jeninga and Dean Wink are undergraduate students at UW Whitewater.
They are at different stages of their UG study.
They are not even in the same major!
But, they do UG Research together, in an inter-disci-pli-nary lab to study and monitor Landslides.
Venkat Raman 1:29
Brett, Esther and Dean join us on our podcast to talk about their Undergraduate Research experiences, their work on Landslide project, and how it is making a difference to them.
Before we jump into the podcast, here are the High-Fives, Five Highlights from the podcast:
[Dean Finds Research]
It kind of started when I met Juk and Esther at the tour I did. Got kind of talking about it. And then after a class I had Juk, she was like, Oh, come down to the lab. We're going to be doing research tonight. When I was like, Okay, let me go check out and I'm gonna go to this. And I, I went and I got a quick like a very brief like, Hey, this is what we're doing about. And I was like, Wow, this sounds interesting. And I want to keep helping with it so.
[UGR Impact on Brett]
Well, it gave me more kind of sense of purpose, not to sound corny or cliche, but it showed that what I was studying is applicable. And it gave me give me a sense an interest in something that I could do once I get out of school.
[Esther on Skills Gained]
It definitely helped me with just general problem solving skills, because sometimes we have to look at the same problem from like 10 different viewpoints before we find what fixes it. So, research has definitely helped there.
Well, I'll be actually attending grad school at the University of Montana, where I will be studying, or I'll be focusing on doing doing research on sites on the Montana seismic network. So finally, I get to go to the earthquake.
[Skills Needed for Research]
I'd say for for me, it's like advocating for yourself is a really good skill for high schools to have. There's a lot of opportunities that college provides that if you don't want to do or you think that like you can't do it because you're not an upperclassman or whatever that you miss out on.
Venkat Raman 3:34
These were the Hi5s, brought to you by College Matters. Alma Matters.
Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
Venkat Raman 3:45
Now, I'm sure you want to hear the entire podcast with Brett, Esther and Dean.
So without further ado, here are Brett Steck, Esther Jeninga and Dean Wink!
Venkat Raman 3:57
Maybe Esther, you can kick it off telling us a little bit about yourself.
Sure. So I work with Dean and Brett in a geology physics computer science combination research lab. I am the only one in the lab that is not a STEM major. I'm actually an art major with a focus in graphic design. I'm a junior, and I've been working in juice labs since freshman year, actually changed my major. And I did start as a physics major. So I just kind of hung around in juice lab after I changed my major, which is really fun. It's really cool.
Venkat Raman 4:40
Awesome. We should talk a little bit more about that. But let me get Dean in. And Dean, why don't you talk a little bit about yourself?
Dean W 4:50
Yeah. So I came in. I'm just a second semester freshman. And I came in as a chemistry major. And then I I met Esther and juke at a tour I was doing. And I took a geology course. And then I realized I enjoy doing this way more than chemistry. So I kind of hopped in and got going with the research, and I really was enjoying it. And I just have kind of been doing it since then.
Venkat Raman 5:23
Okay, that makes sense. So, Brett
Brett S 5:31
Yeah, so I'm, uh, I'm actually my last year here at Whitewater. Yeah, a geology major with physics minor. So this research project is actually applied really well to both my fields of study. However, I really focused on the geology side of things. I initially came in my freshman year as a business major out of all things. Within the after my first year, I did some reflection and just realized going the business track wasn't, wasn't the right route for me. And I talked to some of the professors on campus and ended up making the switch. And then this project came along, I believe it's about a year and a half, potentially two years, after I made my my switch and seeing as how it was geology and physics that I didn't really well, and it's gone, gone smoothly. So ever since.
Venkat Raman 6:24
You know, before we dive into why you went into research, I thought be interesting to just go around and get some sense of what you guys were like in high school with respect to, you know, maybe stem in this case, or in terms of research, if that was even a glimmer in your eyes. So. So maybe we can start with Dean and then just go around.
Yeah, so I kind of came from a smaller High School, so to speak, we didn't have a lot of research going on. coming in. I didn't really know what undergraduate research was. I knew in research, you did projects and research, but I didn't know there was something like I didn't know it had a name like that. And I came in as a chem major. I took AP Chem and I thought that's what I want to do. But turns out I was wrong. So I didn't really know. So that's kind of my background with it, just kind of jumping in headfirst into it.
Venkat Raman 7:28
So so how did you get into it? How did you mentioned? It was a happenstance.
Dean W 7:36
It kind of started when I met Jukun. Esther at the tour I did, kind of talking about it. And then after a class I have Juke, she's like, Oh, come down to the lab. We're going to be doing research tonight. And I was like, Okay, let me go check out and I'm gonna go to this. And I, I went and I got a quick like a very brief like, Hey, this is what we're doing about. And I was like, Wow, this sounds interesting. And I want to keep helping with it. So after that I kind of, I want to say became a part of the research team. It was after that point.
Venkat Raman 8:10
Cool. Brett, what about you?
Brett S 8:13
So actually, in high school, I wasn't the most I'll say studious are really into into STEM at all, really, I was more of a I've more enjoyed English classes and social studies. Back in those years. And when it came time to doing math and sciences that was never really my strong suit. But I took a geology class in high school. And that was a nice refresher like nice and refreshing compared to the usual classes, just because there were assignments and projects we had to do that got us out outdoors and around the city. High school I went to was in Milwaukee. So there's different spots we got to travel to around there. And I guess that it was it was just refreshing. It was different compared to your typical course load. And that was one thing that resonated with me when I was deciding when I was just thinking of what I wanted to switch my major to was one big thing that stuck out. And then once I made that switch I was looking for, I mentioned to you before, I was talking with my brothers, and they were pushing me to do research. And there wasn't really any research that I wasn't that interested me or that I thought was applicable to what I wanted to do in my my career. And then all of a sudden, Juk gave me this presentation and it fit quite perfectly.
Venkat Raman 9:26
How about you Esther? How did you get into it, What were you.. Well, first of all the school and then how you got into research here?
Esther J 9:32
Oh, yeah. So my high school was also on the smaller side. We didn't really have research. I did a lot of theater. When I was in high school. I was big in that kind of scene. And I did a lot of Choir I took both regular physics and AP physics in high school and I really, really love them. I had a fantastic teacher. So I thought going into college. That's what I wanted to do was teach physics, and I signed up for the Research apprenticeship program at Whitewater, because my older siblings suggested it and said it was really good for resumes. Yeah. And then introduced me to Juk, because my older sibling while they were here, worked in juice lab. And that's how I got into working on this project with Juk was definitely through my older sibling who was already part of the team. But it was really just to add for a great experience and to add like something on my resume.
Venkat Raman 10:35
Okay, so Brett, do you want to tell us about the Landslide project? introduce us to the project?
Sure, thanks. So the project, the idea of the project is to create a device that will help monitor triggers, triggers of landslides. And so we've worked with it's an a combination of the geology, physics computer science departments here at Whitewater. And so our role is the geologists rather, DNI, our main roles are creating physical models to test different centers within sandbox experiments. So we use the sandbox experiments to mimic the bluffs of Lake Michigan, because that's our focus area on a more local scale, we do hope that this device can be used in a more global scale. But for now, we're focusing on a smaller, smaller location. And aside from creating physical models, I do a lot of testing and calibration with the sensors themselves. So primarily, we've been looking at moisture and temperature sensors and testing the freeze thaw cycle. So when water seeps into pores, in this case, the sandy soil of the blocks, the water will percolate in come wintertime, it'll freeze as a fruit as the water freezes, it expands. And then that creates a crack and it further expands as more water gets in and freezes. And then come springtime, that melts away and washes away, potentially causing a landslide or week plane, which will lead to a landslide. So we're trying to find a threshold in which we're trying to see if there's a correlation between the rate of movement and a temperature gradients. And then to see if we can narrow down that that threshold. And then we have, we have implemented, or we're starting to implement a few other sensors just to help detect land movement. So they'll just, they'll help assess whether the mass is moving slowly or more rapid pace, which would indicate either creep, that slow movement of the land or a rapid failure, indicating a landslide, more of a failure.
Venkat Raman 12:48
So Dean, tell us what you're doing on the project.
Dean W 12:53
Yeah, so since I'm fairly new project, I'm not handling a bunch of the computer science and monitor stuff. Mainly to train, and I don't know how to use any of that equipment yet. So mostly, what I do is I build the models, and I save the sand because when we do it, we like to use different grain sizes for the sand from bottles, because water moves through them at different rates. So if we have we have buckets of two millimeter, one millimeter, half and a quarter means of sand. So when you make those into different piles and slopes, we are able to know, okay, the water will travel through this speed and this layer at that speed. So we're able to monitored, monitor more closely.
Venkat Raman 13:43
Okay. Okay. And the, you know, will what you do change the next semester, or what are you teed up to do?
Dean W 13:43
I'll probably get more involved since Brett, some of the other people are leaving more of the monitoring with sensors and that type of stuff if I had to take a guess.
Venkat Raman 14:12
And how has this been for you this experience so far?
Dean W 14:16
So far, really, I mean, I have no bad things. I really enjoyed it. Like I said, I didn't really know what to expect. And so getting his hands on research that can help save people for sure enough is really cool to me.
Venkat Raman 14:35
So, Esther, tell us what you're doing as part of the project.
Esther J 14:41
Yeah. So kind of Dean alluded to with the like, helping people a big part of this research project is working with communities. So like this past summer, we worked with the community of Port Washington. So my big role is To make sure that the rest of the geologists in the room don't talk with too much technical jargon, so that a person like me, who has no background in geology, doesn't know what they're saying. So I kind of I hang out, and I listen to their ideas, and I kind of stopped them when I'm like, I don't know what you're talking about. I don't know what's happening anymore. Because a project I recently did with a focus was creating a infographic for the community of Washington that used to explain very simply what causes landslides and what different kinds of landslides are. And so my big role is making sure that whatever we learn, and whatever we do, that is going to be spoken about with general public is easy for general public to understand.
Venkat Raman 15:58
So Brett, you you've been doing this for the past couple of years. How has doing research changed, you impacted you, affected you?
Well, it gave me more kind of sense of purpose. That sounds corny or cliche, but it showed that what I was studying is applicable. And it gave me give me a sense an interest in something that I could do once I get out of school. And I, I came into geology with an interest in earthquakes. And that's part of the reason why I combined my geology and physics. But obviously, we don't experience a whole lot of earthquakes here in Wisconsin. So I thought the next best thing I could do is deal with landslides, and gain some knowledge on that. And along with curtailing the project to the bluffs, Lake Michigan, I've tried to figure out other triggers of record. I'm interested in correlating, find the correlations between landslides and seismic seismic activities. So that has been something that's kind of branched off from what's initially began with this project. So it's kind of just enhanced, enhanced and developed new interests that I may have not been exposed to beforehand.
Venkat Raman 17:15
Now, what what what kind of skills do you think you've developed as a consequence of doing research just broadly, not dismissed? I mean, obviously, this particular one, but something that you can take to other projects?
Brett S 17:26
Oh, absolutely. So first and foremost, working with other people working specifically with different disciplines, it's, it's amazing to see how the more physics and computer science based students approach our our issues in geology, and the different viewpoints, they come out with it, and trying to find a common ground, is it so it's never been an issue, but it always makes for some some interesting dialogue. Additionally, I've gotten some experience with coding and working with the computer aspect of our project. So I'm not I'm not proficient on coding, but it's something that I've been able to pick out here and there, and I kind of get some understanding of how our code for the, for the device we're using works. So that's something that can be used, I believe coding is just a beneficial tool to have skill set to have in most industries. And so getting some experience with this, the research, and then this opened me up to the idea of taking a class here on campus, too. So it's, those two things are probably some of the biggest takeaways I've had.
Venkat Raman 18:35
So Dean, you know, you've been added for a pretty short time, but any any change you notice, you know, in the way, you're approaching things as a consequence of doing some research.
Dean W 18:48
Um, I mean, one of the things that we do a lot in our research is trial and error, because not every run successfully how we wanted to do this. So I think it's almost give me a more sense of like a patient. Because a lot of the time is spent just saving sandwich, you just sit there and yeah, for several hours and just shake arms back and forth. I think it's really given me a sense of, like Brett said, like a direction to go into. I know, I can do this. I know that there are things beyond this.
Venkat Raman 19:26
But I think another another plus a big plus for you. Probably is the fact that you can work with upperclassmen, like Brad, for example, deeply on a project which, you know, is an opportunity that is just great. I would think so. That certainly
Dean W 19:43
has been immensely helpful to me.
Venkat Raman 19:49
So Esther, how is research changing you? I mean, you're not doing Geology or STEM but how's that Making a difference?
Esther J 20:00
Yeah, so working in this project has been really good, especially with like the infographic I made, and just kind of giving me a better perspective of what I can use my degree for outside of just like creating art for a museum or a gallery show. Or like a standard advertising Corporation. Like I, I can see more pathways that I can use my perspective as an art major in and like my skill set with digital media creation, in like community outreach, especially considering our world is so online now. Yep. And working with people of other disciplines has been great as well, like Brett said, and like, getting to talk to people who are not an art major are not always in the same building that I'm in all the time with all the other majors. So that's been great to hear their perspectives on like how they see the world and how they see problems and all that.
Venkat Raman 21:07
Now, any specific or skills that you think you've picked up, other than the opportunities to communicate differently? Anything that you feel like you've picked up along the way,
I definitely have better skills in problem solving. Because I set up so many experiments weekly, that are there to either address a new problem that came up in our last experiment or a problem we are still working to solve. It definitely helped me with just general problem solving skills, because sometimes we have to look at the same problem from like 10 different viewpoints before we find what fixes it. So research has definitely helped there.
Venkat Raman 21:56
so let's switch gears a little bit, and maybe go around and talk about at least in the case of Brett and Esther since we're getting pretty close. What do you guys plan to do after graduating? Dean, I won’t to ask you this because you have a long way to go. I think.So.
Dean W 22:15
Yeah, I don't think I'll have.
Venkat Raman 22:20
Okay, okay. So Brett.
Brett S 22:23
Yeah, so I actually have an internship lined up this summer in Northern California and lawn Shasta where I'll be working on Mount Shasta, the volcano monitoring debris flows, and rock walls. So I think what I've the work I've done, and the knowledge I've gained from this research was something that was very applicable and helped me get that position. And then come fall, I'll be actually attending grad school at the University of Montana, where I will be studying, or I'll be focusing on doing doing research on sites on the Montana seismic network. So finally, I get to get to the earthquake. Good.
Venkat Raman 23:04
Awesome. How about you? So are you what are you thinking?
Esther J 23:09
Yeah, so right now my plan is probably to move down to Chicago, after I graduate and apply for jobs in my field of graphic design. Currently, I'm probably looking to work for like a brewing company to create like their labels, but we'll see what I get when I get down there.
Venkat Raman 23:36
So before we wind down, I kind of want to hear what you guys have in the form of advice of counsel to high schoolers. And how should they think about research and what what kind of skills you think they ought to be focusing on? while they're still in high school? So maybe we start with you, Dean. Since you're close to high school?
Yeah. I'd say well, my biggest piece of advice I could give at the cost of sounding cheesy, keeping yourself open to possibilities and if and look perfect. Doing that's like, I had no idea I'd be even doing a podcast right now. When I came. I had no real I didn't have a plan. And so just by one position I had now I'm doing this and I really just think it's making a good connection with a professor that was like, and just Yeah. In my experience, that's been that's what's worked best for me. And I think there's so many different projects going on. Every professor is doing something I Really think any skill set and you come into college with us to figure something out? I mean esters. And even they come and play with sand. So I mean, there's something for everyone to do no matter what. And I really think that's
Venkat Raman 25:18
awesome. Brett, what would you say?
Brett S 25:21
Yeah, to piggyback off of Dean's point with being in contact with your teachers and professors, I was always a student that was truthfully shy and or rather afraid to ask for help when when I needed it. And I think coming to meeting Juke, the professor that is in charge of the geology side of this project, she has helped me immensely grow as an individual, whether it be just presenting opportunities for myself, or being the being the voice in my ear, it's like, you should do this. Don't look at it as nerves be excited about a kind of thing. Yeah, she's, she's truly helped me grow as an individual. And I'm also grateful for the work she's done with me. But also, I think, I have a little bit biased more towards the coding aspect. And because recently, I've gotten to work with going bald with drone work. And so I think some of the technological skills that I've seen, even high school students be involved in is, is just insane how students are. And I think, I think STEM is just, there's so much you can do with it. And be just just be curious, really, just take take new opportunities, don't don't hold your tongue. If something gets presented to you, doesn't hurt to take a shot.
Venkat Raman 26:58
Good point. Esther, what would you say
Esther J 27:02
I'd say for for me, it's like advocating for yourself is a really good skill for high schools to have, there's a lot of opportunities that college provides that if you don't want to do or you think that like you can't do it, because you're not an upperclassman or whatever that you miss out on. I had the wonderful blessing that my older sibling was at the same university as I was sure that I am. So I had a little more help. But just the like, I still had to go talk to Duke and be like, I want to be part of your research, I want to join your lab. And then a number of like the other like talking to student organizations and clubs that I'm part of, it was all like I had to go out and out of my way and, you know, present myself to those opportunities and be like I want to be here. So I think being able to advocate for like where you want to be when you're in high school or in college, or wherever is super important skill set to have.
Venkat Raman 28:04
Awesome. So I want to thank all three of you, Brett, Esther and Dean for taking the time and sharing your experiences. It's great to see what you're doing and different stages of college life and different majors, different disciplines, different backgrounds. We're all working on this undergraduate research project. And the landside project, by the way, looks sounds like a great project. Very, very useful for humanity in general. So fantastic. So I wish you guys all the luck, and congratulations on all the stuff that you've done so far. I'm sure there'll be a lot more but for right now. Take care. Be safe. And thank you so much.
Brett S 28:47
Thank you very much for the opportunity.
Brett S 28:48
Thank you. Yep. Bye bye. Bye. Bye. See you.
Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Brett, Esther and Dean about UW Whitewater and their UG Research.
Doing UG Research is making a big impact on their educational journey.
It has given Brett the tools to pursue Seismic studies in Grad School.
It has expanded opportunities and given Esther a competitive edge as an Art Major,
And Dean the focus and roadmap for his UG study.
I hope their experiences motivate you to pursue UG research and explore UW Whitewater for your undergraduate studies.
For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [email@example.com].
Thank you all so much for listening to our podcast today.
Transcripts for this podcast and previous podcasts are on almamatters.io forward slash podcasts [almamatters.io/podcasts].
Till we meet again, take care and be safe.