Diana Chin (CAS ’08)
Life in BUMP…
Because BUMP was transitioning into the Marine Science major around 2007, my BUMP classmates and I were the last students to major in Biology with Specialization in Marine Science. Although I imagine our experiences were slightly different than those of other classes, the two semesters I spent in BUMP were two of the best. We were constantly thrown into the deep end of the pool and expected to swim (and swim well). Design, implement, and analyze your own lab and field experiments in three weeks. Write a literature synthesis on a topic you know nothing about (in three weeks). Use GIS like you mean it, even though you learned the basics yesterday. BUMP strengthened my abilities to problem-solve and to quickly find information that I need, which conferred on me some major advantages when I began to search for a job.
Life After BU…
After graduation, I spent several months as a technician in Jelle’s laboratory and took a part-time position with Inspirica, which is a private one-on-one tutoring and test-preparation firm. At the same time, I decided I wanted to see what else I could do with a science background and ended up at AMEC, an international consulting firm, as a human health and ecological risk assessor. Within a year, my technical supervisors switched companies and brought me with them to ARCADIS, another large international consulting firm.
Very broadly speaking, environmental risk assessors are charged with answering the questions “What are the potential risks to people or plants or animals who may be exposed to certain chemicals at certain levels in the environment?” and “What, where, when, and how much do we need to clean up in order to protect human health and the environment?” It has been a significant change from what I worked on at BU – I knew nothing about risk assessment when I started, and I rarely work on projects that specifically incorporate marine science. However, working in consulting has provided me with a perspective on how science may be applied in a business and regulatory context that I never would have gained otherwise. In addition, I now work with engineers, geologists, chemists, toxicologists, statisticians, ecologists, project managers, client development specialists, and many others in an arena in which the relationship between education and experience is not linear. Education levels in our division range from BA/BS to PhD from entry-level through our division leads. One of the primary determinants of advancement is not only what knowledge you can generate but how strategically you are able to apply that knowledge to the solution of real problems.
- Learn to write and speak well. The ability to communicate adequately with other human beings is prized. Nothing says “hire me” like a clear, mature writing and speaking style.
- Go further. Go beyond what is required of you and beyond what you need to know for the test or the project. If you have the opportunity to take classes at a tropical field station, try not to lie on the dock tanning like a tourist for half your stay. Get curious. Get in the water, observe, and ask some questions.
- Seek out internships, travel, and extended research. Research experience is one of the most valuable portions of BUMP – augment it! Internships such as those available through NSF’s REU program can provide opportunities to learn new methods, experience new branches of marine science, and make new connections. If you can travel, do it. If you can extend research projects past the short time afforded by a BUMP course or an internship, the extension may lead to deeper research skills, conference presentations, and publications that give you an edge when you are applying for graduate school or for a job.
- Be flexible when you think about your future. People take many paths to get where they want to be in life, and those paths frequently change direction. Science careers take more forms than you think, and you can never prepare 100% for any one position. You can end up doing work you enjoy in surprising ways (if you want another example, ask Jelle how he fell into marine science in the first place).
UPDATE (fall 2013): Diana is now a PhD student at Stony Brook University, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences