Hi! My name is Heather Bruck and I am a senior at the University of South Carolina Honors College. I am a Biology major with a focus in Marine Science. I am graduating in May 2023 and pursuing Graduation with Leadership Distinction in the Pathway of Research. I am pursuing this pathway as a result of the experiences I have gained through my leadership roles within independent and collaborative research projects as well as in the student-led organization Students Engaged in Aquatic Sciences.
My interest in research first began in 2017, my sophomore year of high school. I attended a 2 week volunteer research trip to Honduras through Operation Wallacea where we spent days hiking, contributing to various research, and exploring the land around us. We also spent a week scuba diving the reefs along Roatan to gather data on coral bleaching and biodiversity to be used for studies around the world. It was incredible to see such a variety of ecologists and biologists in the same space studying an expanse of organisms. I loved the inquisitive and collaborative nature of science, and I have enjoyed research ever since.
After graduating, I will be attending the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill for a PhD in Marine Sciences. I will be working with Dr. Joel Fodrie at the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences with a focus on seagrass ecology. I plan to pursue a career that encompasses research and mentorship, either in academia or through a government organization.
With this E-Portfolio, I will highlight key concepts I have learned in class and incorporated in my leadership experiences while an undergraduate at the University of South Carolina. These key concepts along with experiences outside of the classroom have prepared me for a future in research. My E-portfolio is split among three key concepts that connect within the classroom concepts with beyond the classroom experiences. In addition, I also have a Leadership Section where I recognize a problem and create a plan to solve the issue. Each of my key insights connect to my experiences and highlight how each involvement has contributed towards my GLD Pathway in Research.
My key insights are:
1. Closing the gap between science and the local community.
Research can be important within the scientific community, but without a broader impact towards the public the work can only go so far. From my experiences while at USC, I have learned of the importance of connecting scientific work with the local community and strategies to do so.
2. The value of ecology.
Through my research and classroom experiences, I have found my passion for ecology. It is important to learn how living things in the natural world interact with one another and their environment, especially as the effects of climate change continues to shift these interactions.
3. Interdisciplinary work within research.
Strong, effective research encompasses multiple fields and perspectives to create novel approaches and observations of the world around us. I have learned the importance of a multidisciplinary perspective during the creation and pursuit of research to create an effective, successful project.
My leadership section is about connecting active research with the local community to highlight conservation of the often overlooked marine invertebrates. I have created a plan that involves an interdisciplinary research project on sea cucumbers of the US Virgin Islands, interactive community outreach with group painting, and creating a metafictional novella. The interdisciplinary research provides the often overlooked sea cucumbers the chance to become a highlight of studies and conservation, while the community outreach and novella connect the research to the wider public. It is important to research marine invertebrates like sea cucumbers to fully understand marine ecosystems in this changing world. Furthermore, creating a connection between research and the general public is more important now than ever. Marine science continues to grow as a field, and if there is no impact of research outside of the scientific community then the true effectiveness of science is lost.
I am excited to continue my academic and research endeavors at UNC this upcoming fall. In my pursuit of a PhD in marine science, I will strive to incorporate public involvement with active research and use interdisciplinary approaches to form unique, effective projects. I am beyond grateful for all of the experiences while at the University of South Carolina which have led to my future career in marine science.