Thursday, March 14, 2013

SRAP Alumna Courtney Gettel: Snail tails, writing skills and college life

Courtney collecting samples this summer
Snails may not have been Courtney Gettel’s ideal creature to spend the summer studying, but what they may have lacked in excitement they made up for in learning experiences. Courtney, a freshman at the University of Wyoming majoring in Zoology, spent the summer working with snails and in rivers for her Summer Research Apprentice Program (SRAP) project. The snails became the means for adjusting to living away from home, preparing for college and working on paper writing and research skills.
“It was a great experience,” Courtney says. “I learned quite a bit. It was a good introduction to more-complicated-than-high-school stuff.”
Leaving home for the first time to go to college can be difficult, especially for family people. It was one thing Courtney was worried about as high school came to an end. Her transition from high school to UW however, was eased by her participation in SRAP.
“My family and I feel that SRAP was helpful in the transition to college because living away from home for those six weeks was a good amount of time to get used to it and to get used to the freedoms, but having the responsibilities,” Courtney says. “It made coming to college a lot easier.”
By the time SRAP ended, Courtney was ready to return home to Denver, but was looking forward to coming back for the start of fall semester. Along with her first taste of living on her own and getting through homesickness, Courtney’s love of science was solidified through her project.
Courtney worked in Dr. Amy Krist’s lab alongside graduate student Brenda Hansen. The focus of their project overall was determining if snails have a preference for food with better nutrients.
“My project itself was looking at the differences of nutrition within plants in different parts of a river,” Courtney says. “Specifically, we were looking at phosphorus levels in plants.”
Part of the work involved writing a research paper. For Courtney, this was both frustrating and a great learning experience.
“It was frustrating at times because I kept getting back these papers that just had ink all over them,” Courtney says. “But then I learned quite a bit, and actually it bettered my writing for coming into college.”
Hansen’s tough grading, while wearisome at first, has served Courtney well in college.
“I don’t know if it was specifically Brenda, but my writing was definitely much more prepared for college and I’m seeing that in my labs,” Courtney says. “Some people are having trouble figuring out the labs, but I feel like I have an advantage from working with Brenda, and her expecting me to write an almost paper ready edition of my project.”
Courtney at the Laramie River this summer.
Along with the research component, SRAP introduces students to the fun things to do in the area. It aims to balance work and play, which Courtney really appreciated.
“Our weekend programs were really fun,” she says. “We got to see a play and do a ropes course at Colorado State University. That was all really fun. Even the working part was pretty fun. I liked getting to work in the lab because that’s hopefully where I’ll be when I graduate.”
Although graduation is still a few years down the road, Courtney is interested in going to graduate school for Marine Biology or to veterinary school. For now, however, she is getting the hang of studying and time management, while enjoying the college life.
“College has been wonderful,” Courtney says. “I really have enjoyed it.”
To learn more about SRAP, please visit: Applications for the Summer 2013 program are due March 15th, 2013. 

By Kali S. McCrackin
Photos courtesy of Dr. Amy Krist

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