Summer Centered: Anna Schrecengost ’18 Represents Fords Among Fjörds
The biology major and Velay Fellow is conducting research in Bergen, Norway, with scientists from all over the U.S. and Europe.
With 16 hours of sunlight everyday and an oceanfront location, Bergen, Norway, is an ideal early-summer location for long days of marine biological research. When Assistant Professor of Biology Kristen Whalen asked Anna Schrecengost ’18 to join her on a trip to a research station outside of the city, near the region’s towering fjörds, she jumped at the opportunity to conduct field work in a completely new setting. To help fund the journey, Schrecengost earned a Frances Velay Womens' Science Research Fellowship, which encourages women’s leadership in the sciences, through the Koshland Integrated National Science Center (KINSC).
As part of a three-week trip to the University of Bergen facility, Schrecengost is collecting samples from massive mesocosm bags offshore, which house a vast community of phytoplankton, microscopic organisms (such as algae), and photosynthetic bacteria. The mesocosms (literally “medium worlds”) are highly controlled environments that get tested under different conditions. While researchers from institutions like MIT, Rutgers, and the Institut Biologie Physico Cheme in Paris are all conducting different experiments, Whalen and Schrecengost are interested in in the effect of HHQ, a chemical produced by bacteria, on the mesocosms’ phytoplankton. Accordingly, Schrecengost has learned how to drive a motorboat, collect water samples from the bags, and filter them in a lab for DNA and RNA samples.
“I’m most excited about being able to go out in the field and collect samples and really get an understanding of what fieldwork is, since I’ve never done that before,” said Schrecengost, who has conducted research with Whalen in her lab back at Haverford, and will continue to do so this summer in preparation for her senior thesis. “I also get to see how intimately connected field and lab work are, how they interact, how experiments are designed, and why people design them the way they do.”
All of the researchers at the National Science Foundation-funded facility are housed in the marine station, and cook, eat, and socialize together. Schrecengost is impressed by the multiple-course meals that the station’s French scientists manage to prepare every day, but is even more inspired by the diverse scientific inquiries taking place around her.
“Seeing great scientists work out real-time problems with often unprecedented work is super exciting,” she said, “and I’m very grateful to be here.”
Schrecengost plans to write her thesis about biological compounds that could combat antibiotic resistance in bacteria, but says that the work she’s doing in Norway is completely new to her. She’s quickly learning about oceanography as she conducts it, even reading papers about phytoplankton in her spare time. She’ll return at the end of May, and spend the rest of her 10-week Velay Fellowship at Haverford in Whalen’s lab.
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.