Friday, August 3, 2012

Student from Kennebunk Does Specialized Research with her College Professor

Kennebunk native Amelie Jensen, conducting research in Vermont (courtesy photo)
Amelie Jensen , daughter of Arleen and John Jensen of Kennebunk, was one of 46 Saint Michael's College students to be awarded grants to do research with a professor this summer. Jensen, a senior biology major, graduated from Cheverus High School in Portland before attending Saint Michael's College, which is located in Burlington, Vermont.
Jensen is carrying out a project titled U.S. Fish & Wildlife internship, and working with
Professor Doug Facey, head of the biology department at St, Mike’s.
“I’m getting as lot of field experience,” Jensen said this week from Vermont. “I’m also working with Leah Szafranski, a member of the US fish & wildlife in Essex Junction, who was contracted to do this monitoring project.”
Jensen and her partners are monitoring trees that were planted in the Lake Champlain watershed over the last twenty years to help with erosion and watershed quality.
“So we are going back and looking at these trees and seeing how they’re doing,” she said. “We’re looking at the success of these planting projects to see what works best.
Jensen said that, especially after Hurricane Irene, a lot of these streams have flooded and destroyed the banks. She is receiving a paid internship through the grant, and gets better-priced housing at St. Mike’s during the summer.
Next year after she graduates, she’d like to get some more experience in the field of biology, she said.
“I just spent last semester immersed in biology. Right now, I’m just trying to get a feel for what type of specialty I want to go into after school.”
Jensen is not all brains; she has plenty of brawn as well.
She  is president of the college’s Women’s Rugby Club.
“I've been playing since 2010. It is not a varsity sport. We do have a coach, but it is mostly student run. We have different officer positions such as public relations, treasurer, captain, match secretary and president,” she explains. “Last fall I was match secretary so I was in charge of organizing games with other teams, getting meals for away games and bringing the necessary things for games such as jerseys, food and medical supplies. This season I will be president so I am the liaison between our team, or coach and the school. I will be in charge of more logistical items.”
For her position, Jensen plays the second row in the scrum. She says that, although biology and rugby may seem worlds apart, they are actually quite comparable.
“There certainly is a correlation between my position as an officer on my rugby team and my job now. In both positions, it is important to be organized,” she said. “With rugby, it really helps when scheduling team activities and games. At work, we are collecting a lot of data every day, so it is important to have a system and keep things organized. Communication between my rugby team, coach and other officers is key and also at work. Again, in the field collecting data, it is important to communicate clearly with everyone I'm working with… In both instances tackling one job (or one player!) works much better when people work together. We could never finish our whole summer monitoring project alone, and I could never win a rugby game alone.”
Her school’s administration is proud of the work Jensen has done, on the field and out in it.
“Undergraduate research is a natural extension of some of Saint Michael's College's most strongly-held beliefs as an educational institution,” said Dr. Karen Talentino, SMC vice president for Academic Affairs. “We believe that close student-faculty interaction facilitates learning and student development,” said Talentino, herself a biologist.
The research happening at the college ranges from environmental data collection with the Vermont EPSCoR Streams project to surveying Vermont's workforce in an effort to increase the effectiveness of the Workforce Investment Act. Funding also has been provided by the college's summer fellowship program, the Vermont Genetics Network, the National Science Foundation, SMC alumni funds for research and other sources.
The wide range of research happening at the college includes, along with scientific research, history studies, and social science research, such as a study of the Impact of Technology on Religious Concepts of Community.
“We expect our faculty to pursue scholarly and research activities in order to inform their teaching and to contribute to their disciplines,” Talentino said. “We try to facilitate the growth of each student in all dimensions, and to prepare them to be lifelong learners.” She said working with faculty, who are themselves researchers, is one of the best experiences a liberal arts education provides to students.