Ellen Weber practically lives in Wilkes University’s Cohen Science Center, processing lake sediment samples she collected last summer in Newfoundland, Canada.
“It was the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” Weber says of the climate research trip with Geology professors Sid Halsor and Matt Finkenbinder. The first day, they collected water depth data and sediment cores from Norman’s Pond in a boat in the pouring rain. “I asked for rain gear for Christmas,” jokes the junior earth and environmental science major from Gettysburg, Pa.
Back on campus, the musician put band and chorus activities on hold to focus on lab work. As a vital part of the lab team, Weber preps hundreds of sediment samples and mentors less experienced students. Finkenbinder tries to incorporate research into all his classes, which he notes is unique to Wilkes. “It’s more like the relationship I’ve had with grad students at other schools,” says Finkenbinder.
As a mentor, Finkenbinder tries to learn about each student’s background, likes and motivation to find out how to encourage and challenge them. “At some point, I step back if they’ve demonstrated that they know what they’re doing. I have to give them space to figure it out for themselves, but I’m never far away.”
Weber looks ahead to next summer and her internship in the solar radiation and photobiology lab at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Annapolis, Md. Grateful to the earth and environmental science faculty for helping her get her feet wet, she appreciates their advice as she takes her next steps. “I feel completely comfortable going to their office at 8 a.m. before they have their coffee and asking them anything. They let me in the door. They’re really great.”