Britain Meade and Ethan Hensel pursued undergraduate research at University of Wisconsin Whitewater. Ethan is a rising Senior studying Geography with an emphasis on Geology and Britain is a Rising Junior planning to major in Geography with a Geology emphasis and minor in Environmental Studies.
Their stories showcase the power of Undergraduate Research.
It has enabled Britain to continue her college experience from 2-year to a 4-year program while pursuing undergraduate research, and Ethan was able to shake off the 3 majors he had tried out before, and find his calling in Geosciences.
Hi-Fives from the Podcast are:
Episode Title: Britain Meade and Ethan Hensel of UW Whitewater: UG Research Has Given Their College Journey Direction.
Ethan Hensel was unclear what he really wanted out of college so he journeyed through 3 different schools and 3 different majors. Britain Meade wasn’t ready to jump into a 4-year degree program after high school, so started with an Associates program.
Britain and Ethan join us on our podcast to share their Undergraduate Research experiences and its impact on their college journey at UW Whitewater.
In particular, we discuss the following with them:
Topics discussed in this episode:
Britain Meade is a Rising Junior planning to major in Geography with a Geology emphasis and minor in Environmental Studies at UW Whitewater.
Memorable Quote: “And, you know, you can always learn skills. So don't be afraid, I guess, about what you don't know.”, Ethan Hensel.
Episode Transcript: Please visit Episode’s Transcript.
Similar Episodes: College Experiences
Transcript of the episode’s audio.
Know what I had this big misconception about research when even or like when I was in high school. And even like the first couple years in college, I thought that in order to do research, you had to know everything that you were doing. And I don't know I can only speak on my experience, but a lot of the research that I've done right now has just been learning things, I guess, researching things that are already known, and kind of applying those in different ways. And you know, you can always learn skills.
Hello! I am your host Venkat Raman.
Britain Meade and Ethan Hensel are undergraduate students at UW Whitewater.
Britain wasn’t ready to jump into a 4-year degree program after high school, so started her college experience with an Associates program at UW Whitewater Rock County.
Ethan was unclear what he really wanted out of college so he journeyed through 3 different schools and 3 different majors - English, Math, Biology before settling on Geography with an emphasis on Geology.
Venkat Raman 1:27
Britain and Ethan independently discovered Undergraduate Research.
Venkat Raman 1:33
Britain and Ethan join us on our podcast to share their Undergraduate Research experiences, their work on Forest Diversification in Northern Wisconsin, and their college journey at UW Whitewater.
Before we jump into the podcast, here are the High-Fives, Five Highlights from the podcast:
Once I have my Associate's, I'll transfer to the main campus full time. And that's happening in the fall. And I'm looking at becoming a geography major with a geology emphasis and an environmental studies minor.
[Why UG Research?]
benefited me is that my academic advisor, she is a structural geologist and structural Geology is the field that I'm actually very interested in. So just through kind of talking with her, she was really, really great at kind of recognizing things that I didn't even really consider strength. And she kind of directed me into some of her research groups.
[Red Cliff Project Goals]
And one of the kind of the big, overarching goals with GeoPATH to pass is the recognition that science is inter... or interdisciplinary. But it's not just interdisciplinary with science, it's also interdisciplinary with things such as culture, art, so that's really kind of the focus of Geopath. And it's about kind of taking all of those things and applying it for the betterment of society, if you will.
[The Impact of UG Research]
So I would say the research is impacting me in a lot of ways. And I think it's mostly positive because not only is it giving me the skills I need to succeed in my field, but it's also allowing me to make connections. And I mean, I've met so many staff and faculty members as well as fellow students, and I'm actively developing relationships that will last post graduation.
[Skills for High Schoolers]
You know, a lot of people will say things like, Gee, I really wish I had better writing skills, or I wish I knew how to study beforehand. And, and, you know, it's not that these things aren't important, you know, they are, but for me, I think it really comes down to assertiveness and self management. And I mean, this in the case of spreading myself too thin, I have a tendency to want to be involved in everything.
Venkat Raman 3:52
These were the Hi5s, brought to you by College Matters. Alma Matters.
Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
Venkat Raman 4:06
Now, I'm sure you want to hear the entire podcast with Britain and Ethan. So without further ado, here are Britain Meade and Ethan Hensel!
Venkat Raman 4:18
If You guys are ready, we can jump right in.
Britain M 4:21
For sure. Let's do it.
Venkat Raman 4:23
Okay, cool. So maybe we can start out with a little bit of introduction. So maybe Britain, you can kick it off. Say a little bit about your background and how you got to UW Whitewater.
Okay, um, well, I grew up in the Beloit Janesville area. I'm I'm a sophomore at UW Whitewater. I started at the Rock County Campus. After I graduated high school, I knew that I didn't want to jump right into a four year so I'm UW Whitewater at Rock County having the associate's degree program was pretty much a perfect fit for me. Sure. So I currently attend both the two year campus and the four year campus, which makes it where I commute twice a week to Whitewater from again the Beloit Janesville area. So.
Venkat Raman 5:19
Yeah, so, um, my story's a little bit of a labyrinth. Yeah. So I graduated from high school in 2018, from Watertown. And then right after I graduated, I went to for a year at the University of Stevens Point at Marshfield, I spent a year there, and then I transferred into college in it was a small college in Minnesota where I was there for around a year and a half. And then following that I transferred to UW W. And I have been here ever since.
Venkat Raman 6:02
So what I thought we could do is talk a little bit about what you guys are planning to study or already pursuing as part of your degree programs and by in terms of major and courses. And just a little backdrop before we talk about research. So Britain, you want to kick it off?
Sure. Um, so right now I am focusing on getting my Associates of the arts and sciences. And that is just kind of wide breadth of knowledge. It's it's taking science courses and English and just pretty much anything to get those credits. And then that's going to knock out my Gen Ed's. And then once I have my Associate's, all transferred to the main campus full time, and that's happening in the fall. And I'm looking at becoming a geography major with a geology emphasis and an environmental studies minor.
Venkat Raman 7:04
Wow. How about you Ethan?
So again, kind of, to mention the labyrinth. Again, when I kind of originally entered collegiate study, I was an English major. And it was something that I didn't really know what I wanted to do after high school. So it was one of those things where I knew I was good at English in high school. And I was kind of being told, like, you know, like college is a really good option. So and like I had the grades, they had the scores.
So I went to college, I spent a semester as an English major. And it wasn't really something that I enjoyed, you know, the I liked my teachers, the classes were interesting, but it wasn't something that I would have considered passion. So I kind of changed my major. And this is going to be kind of a reoccurring theme.
So I changed my major. And I kind of after I did that I was a math major. And I love math, like I really did kind of learn to appreciate math while I was doing that. And I kind of did not even consider sciences until I had entered a science classroom to fill one of my general education requirements. And kind of through talking to the professor, she was like you really have a mind for science, I think the system that you should consider. And so I did, I became a biology major after that with a massive double major.
And then I had transferred out of that school and I had kind of focused on the education route. And then I kind of came to the realization that I love teaching, I think that teaching is something that is amazing. But I look more into research.
So I ended up transferring into UWW kind of with the goal of science, just like research science being kind of the focus my thing. And originally, I actually applied as a biology major. And once I kind of got on campus, on you know, through talking with my family, I'm talking with some advisors, I realized that I really the things that I was passionate about, kind of interdisciplinarily are within the realm of Geoscience. So right now my major is geography with an emphasis in geology. And my minor isn't mathematics.
Venkat Raman 9:26
Maybe you can you can kick this off. why or how did you get into research?
So I kind of stumbled into it actually. Like I said, I wanted to do research. That is the reason why I went to Whitewater. And I think like coming from as an undergrad, you know, you've read a lot of things where like, you need to talk to professors and you talk to professors, but professors can be kind of scary. You know, a lot of them. They are incredibly intelligent and they're very knowledgeable in their field, but one of the things that kind of benefited me is that my academic advisor, she is a structural geologist and structural Geology is the field that I'm actually very interested in. So just through kind of talking with her, she was really, really great at kind of recognizing things I didn't even really consider strike. And she kind of did back to me and to some of her research groups.
Venkat Raman 10:27
How about you Britain?
Britain M 10:29
Um, so two things really happened that got me into research. The first was my participation in the undergraduate research program, where I got paid to do research with UW Whitewater faculty, I worked at the art gallery here on the main campus got to learn about how they do their exhibits, and we studied artwork trends, as well as foot traffic and the gallery. There, I met the associate director of URP, Ana Caballero Menjibar, if I'm pronouncing her name correctly. And she reached out to me about the GeoPATHS program, which I'm currently in alongside Ethan. The second thing was really a direct consequence of my love for travel, I saw that UW Whitewater was offering troubled study courses, and I saw that there was one that was taking place in Iceland for eight days. And that's essentially a week devoted to studying the super unique geography of Iceland looking at things like their geysers, volcanoes, stuff like that. And so I signed up for that. And we our team just finished our preliminary research for that. So yeah.
Venkat Raman 11:44
Okay, so maybe we should sort of jump into what you're actually doing as part of research or what you've been doing for, you know, for whatever period of time. So, Ethan, what kind of research have you been doing? And remind me, I think you are in the Landslide project, right?
Venkat Raman 12:04
Yeah, go ahead.
Right. So yeah, so one of the projects that I am involved in, obviously, I'm involved in two major ones. But the landslide project, specifically, we are gathering data from these tiny little computer things called Raspberry Pi's. And what they allow us to do is they allow us to collect a whole stream of data. And we input that into a software on that lab. So one of the things I have been doing is I've been taking kind of the raw data that we've been gathering, I've been using that lab to create plots to see if we can kind of make some sense about what we're seeing. One of the things that we have kind of acknowledged and the things that we are studying, we're looking at landslides, specifically along the lake Michigan shoreline. So what has been happening essentially, is due to climate change, there is increased periods of rainfall. And there's these increased periods of rainfall very heavy. And that has implications for, for basically, everything along the lake Michigan shoreline, tourism would be affected, like there would be economic hardships that could follow. And then obviously, you have entire beaches that are being lost. So I'm, we're using that data. And one of the things I am kind of researching right now is how to kind of create a mathematical model that we can use to kind of predict and be able to kind of change variables to see the severity of slip failure. So I will be actually I got an email the other day from a computer software called COMSOL, multiphysics. Researching into that, and we're gonna see if we can create a model based off of that.
Venkat Raman 13:49
Yeah, Britain. Why don't you talk about your research first?
Britain M 13:53
Okay. Um, yeah, so right now I'm currently working on two things are toward the Iceland trip, we leave for that trip on May 21. But my group, as I said, Just finished our preliminary research. We're focusing on the copious amounts of lava rock, and how it changes the chemistry of Iceland's water and impacts the aquatic environment. And that's just my group alone. I believe there's six different groups that are doing different research in Iceland. But what we're doing right now is we're taking the salt rock and ash, and we're mixing it with different kinds of water. And we will be collecting samples directly from Iceland and taking them back to analyze, but we're applying different variables such as heat and time to measure how again, how the chemistry of the water changes.
And then the second thing I'm working on is with the GeoPATHS group, and we're working on our research proposal for our work in July with the Red Cliff and Bad River tribal nations. We're going to collect soil samples, and I believe take a look at some Invasive Species there. So
Venkat Raman 15:06
What's the goal of that project? What are you guys trying to do?
Britain M 15:10
For Redcliff? Yeah, I believe Ethan was a huge, huge part of writing that proposal. So I think maybe he should.
Okay. Right. So we through GeoPATHS, one of the kind of the big, overarching goals and to cost is the recognition that sciences into the are interdisciplinary. But it's not just interdisciplinary with science. It's also interdisciplinary with things such as culture, art. So that's really kind of the focus of geo costs. And it's about kind of taking all of those things and applying it for the betterment of society, if you will.
And so we are working with tribal nations in northern Wisconsin. And we will be using LIDAR data, use a lidar that's like satellite imagery. And we are going to be kind of taking those images of their tribal lands. And we are going to also be doing what's called soil truth or ground truthing, rather, so we're going to be taking soil samples to find kind of the sandy soils, like the sandbars. And we will be using GIS. So that's like a mapping software, one of the applications of it, and we're going to be creating zones that offer the most, I guess, opportunity for forest diversification.
So forest diverse forests, diversification is really important. ecosystem health. And particularly, when we're looking at tribal lands, we want to preserve those lands because they do hold such a cultural significance not only to the tribe, but to the land as well, you know, the tribe has been taking care of land for 1000s of years, and they're continuing to do so. And I'm really, really happy that I get to play a part and their work, you know, I think that the work that they are doing is really, really important.
Venkat Raman 17:09
Okay, so. So you guys have, you know, a couple of projects each. You've been doing this now, for some time? How is it impacting you? How's it changing You? What, what do you guys find that you are gaining out of this? Maybe Britain, you want to go first?
Sure. Um, so I would say the research is impacting me in a lot of ways. And I think it's mostly positive, because not only is it giving me the skills I need to succeed in my field, but it's also allowing me to make connections. And I mean, I've met so many staff and faculty members, as well as fellow students, and I'm actively developing relationships that will last post graduation. It's also giving me connections outside of UW Whitewater, because we're coordinating with the tribal nations and other UW System schools to do this research. So that's, it's definitely a big impact from there. So
Venkat Raman 18:15
Yeah. Now what do you what do you plan to do? In a few years time once you graduate? Do you have any dreams at this point? Or is it still formulating. I am just curious where you want to go.
Um, so my plans for after I graduate are pretty vague at the moment, just because I still have a couple years before I get my bachelor's degree. And I know, I don't want to stay in this area, I'd really like to move up north, maybe up by Lake Superior. And at some point during my junior or senior year, I know I'd really like to secure an internship at the Great Lakes, Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. They represent 11 Ojibwe tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. And I would really like it if that turned into a full time position. That's what I would love to do after graduation, I would really like to participate in that community and embrace something other than what I've grown up with.
Venkat Raman 19:14
That's awesome. So Ethan, how is research changing you?
So kind of to piggyback on what Britain had stated, the relationships that I'm building, with faculty and with my peers. I think that it is so incredibly important. You know, the sciences in general, are very, it's a lot about who you know, and just being able to kind of interact with people who do have different perspectives than you who have different experiences even. I think that that has been one of the things that I have really taken away from it.
I've also learned how to use Matlab, so a computer software program and this Summer are in fall of 22, I'll also be kind of devoting time towards learning another computer software to do mathematical modeling. So those skills are going to look amazing on a resume. And yeah, I would say that those are kind of the, and I guess even communication wise, I've improved. Just because you know, when you when you tell people that you're doing research, you know, they asked you what, what are you doing? And really doing it has kind of offered me a better way to communicate that.
Venkat Raman 20:38
Where do you think you're headed? What do you want to do beyond your undergrad?
Right? So, um, when I get my undergraduate degrees, my bachelor's degree, I would really like to continue my studies, my kind of long term goal is to eventually get my doctorate in geology or earth science. And then it could do research and teach the collegiate level.
Venkat Raman 21:03
Awesome. Yeah, so all that exploration has got you to a point where you're excited about the field, and you want to pursue it to your doctoral level. So that's great. Now, do you think that's a consequence of the research you're doing? Or do you think it's, among other things?
I think that that is, it's kind of it, I think it's both. If you were to ask my mom, if you're gonna call Jennifer right now. Ever since I was a little kid, I have had big dreams about becoming a doctor or going to graduate school. So obviously, that's always something that I have wanted to do. But I think that specifically, the research that I'm doing right now has shown me that, you know, this is a real opportunity. Like I said, the skills that I'm learning right now are going to kind of directly prepare me for research that I'd be doing in graduate school. Yeah, I think that ultimately, that would strengthen my application.
Venkat Raman 22:07
What kind of advice would you give freshmen about research? What would you tell them?
I think for me, I would say that you don't need to know everything right away. I know what I had this big misconception about research, when, even or like when I was in high school. And even like, the first couple years in college, I thought that in order to do research, you had to know everything that you were doing. And I don't know, I can only speak on my experience. But a lot of the research that I have done right now has just been learning, did things that I like is researching things that are already known, and kind of applying those in different ways.
And you know, you can always learn skills. So don't be afraid, I guess, about what you don't know. And certainly what the things that you can learn and the things that you can apply. So for example, I'm just going to kind of, I have experience in writing that, like, really, really important, I wrote a grant, you know, I've written how to write the grant to that stuff has been really helpful.
So don't just focus on I guess the thing that you want to research, if you want to go into biological research, don't just focus on these are my biological skills, think about? Do I have math skills? So I have communication skills? Do I have any kind of talents with visual media, all of those things can be applied and should be applied? To create a better product?
Venkat Raman 23:41
So Britain, would you, What would you add to that?
Britain M 23:43
Um, I 100% agree with Ethan on everything he said. You know, like everything, there are good and bad sides to being involved in research. And I'll start with the bad side. So I can end this on a positive note. Yeah, the bad side is sometimes stretching yourself too far and not having a sense of direction. It can also become really easy to second guess yourself or feel like an imposter. Among all these people who seem so expensive. Like they know everything because Ethan's right, all of these people, they seem so smart. And it can be very intimidating.
But that's the good thing about research. You have so many people who are willing to work with you and show you the ropes. And I just really urge freshmen to get to know the people they're researching with because it'll give them the not succeed and it will make them feel like they belong there because they do so.
Venkat Raman 24:41
Now, do you think they should get started with research in their freshman year right away or do you think they should wait?
Britain M 24:50
I absolutely think that they should start early. I mean, that that is the thing about research is you can make it what you want it to be and as long as you have an eye Dia, then, I mean, that's really all you need.
Venkat Raman 25:09
Okay, so we are kind of starting to wind down here. So I think both of you have mentioned skills along the way here. So maybe you can take turns and tell high schoolers, about the kinds of skills they ought to develop before they come to college, if you think it's necessary or useful to have them before you step on campus, so, Britain, you want to go first?
Um, you know, a lot of people will say things like, Gee, I really wish I had better writing skills, or I wish I knew how to study beforehand. And, and, you know, it's not that these things aren't important, you know, they are. But for me, I think it really comes down to assertiveness and self management. And I mean, this in the case of spreading myself too thin, I have a tendency to want to be involved in everything. I mean, I, I run the student organization, I hold a volunteer position as a war hawk ambassador, I'm doing undergraduate research, and I'm, I'm doing all of this on top of commuting and managing my grades and my social life. And I have this semester, and it's beginning to affect my motivation. So the skills I really wish I had were the ability to tell people and myself, no, I'm sorry, I can't do this, I need time for myself. And I wish I had already known how to take that step back and give myself time to just exist instead of having to do something every minute of every day. But that's a lesson I'm definitely learning and next semester is going to be much more, I think, paste.
Venkat Raman 26:53
Okay, that, those are wise words. So Ethan, what do you think?
I think that you, when it comes to kind of college and research anyway, like a lot of the skills are things that you can learn pretty quickly, you know, that you can learn how to do basic equations very quickly. You can learn geological concepts very quickly. So I wouldn't necessarily bog yourself down with kind of memorizing the every single minutiae things that exist out there, I think that the things that you should be focused on are the things that take a while to develop, kind of knowing yourself, that sounds like a very cliche answer, it kind of is a cliche answer, but are like reemphasize Britain's point. College is hard. Like, it's not. It's not supposed to get a walk in the park. It's possible and you do need to really know who you are, you need to know your limits, you need to know when to say no. Also, you need to know when to say yes, you need to know when, like, there is something that is going to be challenging, but if it is worthwhile, I also think that interpersonal skills you need to have that you really, really do. I think that especially like kind of the day and age that we live in now, where communication is so readily available, you need to be able to communicate with others, and you need to be able to collaborate with others. So yeah, I would say that those are kind of the, to be fair, these are the things that I've really struggled with, you know, I like I can talk to people you know, but trying to talk to somebody about kind of a field of study or about research or about those kinds of things is different than having kind of a random conversation with somebody about their day. So you need to make sure that you know how to do professional communication. And then also, don't be afraid to branch out, you know, Britney, she just gave a wonderful example of all these things that she's doing, you know, and I know that she has spread herself, then she knows that she's told the opposite thing happened to me where I got into college, and I was so scared of falling into the wrong thing, of kind of committing to things that I didn't really do anything for the first like I would say, a year and a half. And ultimately, like I really, really regret that because i Those are skills that I could have learned kind of connections that he could have made, and you never know when those connections are going to come back and be very valuable.
Venkat Raman 29:20
Absolutely, absolutely, unfortunately Live and Learn they say. Okay, Ethan Britain. This was wonderful, very, very exciting and positive conversation all about doing undergraduate research. It's really much more than that. It's really about college experience and gaining knowledge. So I thank you, the two of you for taking the time and spending a few minutes talking about this. I'm sure it'll help high schoolers and anyone else who comes after us here. So thank you again, and we'll talk more for right now. Take care, be safe Thank you so much.
Britain M 30:01
Thank you very much.
Have a great day.
Venkat Raman 30:04
Hope you enjoyed our podcast with Britain and Ethan about UW Whitewater and their UG Research.
Their stories showcase the power of Undergraduate Research by bringing clarity & direction to their individual undergraduate experience, and passion for their majors.
It has enabled Britain to continue her college experience from 2-year to a 4-year program while pursuing undergraduate research, and Ethan was able to shake off the 3 majors he had tried out before, and find his calling in Geosciences.
I hope Britain and Ethan’s experience motivates you to research UW Whitewater for your undergraduate and research.
For your questions or comments on this podcast, please email podcast at almamatters.io [firstname.lastname@example.org].
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.