Colleagues and Friends

…I knew Polaris 2013 would be something new, but I had no clue what to expect and I don’t think anyone could have predicted what its impacts were going to be…

Now as my time in Cherskiy has coming to a close, I’ve found myself reflecting on how Polaris is affecting me and my fellow students.

This year’s Core Group and PI’s are studying how recent climate change is affecting the movement of carbon and nutrients through the nearby Y4 watershed. By focusing on the same watershed, we came together around a common scientific interest. Our collective ideas soon turned to constant discussions with our mentors and returning students, as they guided us through the process of developing a thorough scientific question and a conceptual model…allowing us to take a holistic approach towards our research topic. What is the importance of the question? What’s affecting this? Why bother? These thoughts were rolling around in my head as I was pushed to confront the challenges of refining and adjusting my ideas…a struggle that all scientists face during the first stages of developing a research project.  However, regardless of any temporary frustrations, our mentors did not give up on directing us through this struggle, so we updated our conceptual model daily to understand how our questions fit in the bigger picture.

The outcome…

…this year’s novel approach led to ambitious projects that encouraged us to integrate and collaborate with each other.  I believe this led us to develop as “think-ers” first and Arctic scientists second. We can all agree that each and every day we surprise ourselves at how much we can accomplish together and the new skills that not only students, but PI’s have found themselves discovering.

…I’ve come to value how effectively our mentors have trained our thought process by encouraging us to think independently and to realize on our own, the steps necessary to develop a well-planned research question.  I now understand that our experiment comes from our question, and our question comes from its relevance and importance to Polaris and Arctic science. Refining and adjusting ideas in the context of the “big picture” has helped me understand a new approach that I can apply to future research challenges.

One of my goals in joining the Polaris Project was to learn and gain novel experiences that I could use in future Arctic research.  But being a part of Polaris has taught me much more than I could have imagined.  I am fully immersed in this environment, the people and our research.  I feel Polaris is unique because the faculty are not only great mentors, but have become our colleagues and friends.  These relationships make it easier to have discussions, ask questions, express concerns, and share excitement about our research.  As a result, I have had the unique opportunity to conduct exciting research and have a great time doing it!