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2010 REU and REV Program Participant Profiles: Jillian Trask

Jillian Trask photo.

Degree: B.S. Mathematics, Keene State College
School: Taught math at Bearden High School and will attend Univ. of Tennessee in the fall 2010 as a master's student in mathematics
Hometown: Knoxville, TN
REU/REV Research Project: Biodiversity in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

What is the purpose of your research and why is it important?
The purpose of our research is to explain the diversity in organisms living in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Our research is important because the organisms living in the Great Smoky Mountains rely on each other to maintain their habitat, eat, etc. If some of the organisms living in the area die off, biodiversity decreases, and the environment becomes at risk of being less stable and efficient. We are in the process of determining and describing the current level of diversity at eleven sites in the park.

Do you have an interesting "personal side" to your research experiences?
I have definitely changed during my time at NIMBioS. In the past, I would walk by trees, bugs, and just “nature” in general. A few weeks after starting the REU/REV program, I was suddenly noticing all these things in “nature” that I had just walked by in the past, and I was truly curious about them! As I was walking back to my car one day, I was surprised to realize that I had stopped at least seven times to examine a plant or insect. It probably shouldn't have taken me so long to open my mind to these things, but I truly appreciate the way my experience with the REU/REV program has made me do so.

What new experiences did you gain that have helped you today?
I think I've gained a lot of useful experiences during my time in the REU/REV program. For example, I think that the ability to work with a group of people toward a common goal is important. I have a tendency to work by myself, but working with others allows new ideas to enter the equation that you wouldn't think of yourself. In addition, I am very appreciative of the opportunity to explore the integration of disciplines in a structured environment. I have also gained experience conducting research, which will certainly help me in my future studies as I am returning to school to graduate school in the fall.

Would you recommend our program to others?
Absolutely! I have every intention of doing so. It is such a great experience, especially for people who tend to be focused in their area. I have always submerged myself in math, and, as a result, sometimes forgot about its applications as if I were wearing blinders. But now, I am much more aware of the scope of its applications to the “real world” and am much more excited about exploring those applications.

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From 2008 until early 2021, NIMBioS was supported by the National Science Foundation through NSF Award #DBI-1300426, with additional support from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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