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Austin: Enjoying the Liberal Arts

Some friends and I at Silver Falls State Park on a hike!

Some friends and I at Silver Falls State Park on a hike!

Fall is finally here! The leaves are changing, the weather is turning, and suddenly pumpkin spice everything sounds good. This fall semester I am taking some really interesting courses, some of which include Principles of Ecology, Chemistry, and an upper-level English course, Diverse Voices in literature: Women Writers. As part of my Ecology class, my lab section (9 total students) travels to various places all around Western Oregon to experiment by doing field work. We have experimented with soil respiration rates, explored stomata density on leaves in accordance to sunlight exposure, set up a beetle competition experiment, and even investigated the nutrient composition, bacterial load, and organism diversity of a nearby stream.  I have really enjoyed getting out into the field and running experiments because it is exciting to utilize the surrounding area of McMinnville; the biodiversity and habitat diversity offer some really interesting experiments!

One of my favorite experiments thus far has been visiting local cemeteries, and collecting birth, death, and Sex information. It sounds really odd, and trust me, it felt a little odd, but after collecting nearly 4,000 data points, setting up a life table in excel and analyzing the data based on year grouping, age at death, and males vs. females was fascinating! Part of our lab was to formulate hypotheses to predict why the changes in the data appeared as they did. I found this a really interesting assignment because from the scientific data, we had to consider historical events happening during the time periods we were considering, as well as cultural and regional changes, as well as gender roles. Connecting the gaps between the disciplines is the core focus of the curriculum here at Linfield, and it is definitely something I have come to love. Being taught from an interdisciplinary perspective in general, and especially in the sciences, is a huge privilege. Skills that I learned from my Inter Cultural Communication class last semester are coming in handy this semester, as I am living with a student from Japan, and historical knowledge and cultural perspectives I am learning in my English course right now are helping in my Ecology class as well.

Year two: first semester is here. I am living it, and loving it, every single day. Students and parents often ask me if I were to go back and change my college search process, what I would change. My answer: nothing. I am so happy here, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

Until next time,

-Austin

*A few weeks ago, a few friends and I took a hike at Silver Falls State Park; see the picture attached. Over 10 waterfalls! It was beautiful.

Austin: A weekend at the Air Force Academy

A view from one of the buildings we were in; the large structure in the distance is the huge church that represents 15 religions!

A view from one of the buildings we were in; the large structure in the distance is the huge church that represents 15 religions!

Some of our team!

Some of our team!

Our squad that traveled to the Air Force Academy!

Our squad that traveled to the Air Force Academy!

This past weekend, the Linfield Speech and Debate (Forensics) team traveled to Colorado Springs, Colorado, and competed in the 51st United States Air Force Academy Forensics Tournament. There were 7 of us, 4 competing in British Parliamentary Debate, and 3 competing in individual events, ranging from Communication Analysis, Persuasive speaking, Poetry, and Impromptu. The Tournament started on Saturday, and continued into Sunday, with a black-tie official banquet to conclude the event. My partner and I debated, and were faced with topics ranging from gay athlete rights, to national renewable energy patents, to religion compared to public polls, and federal mandates for private schools to offer more scholarships. After six preliminary rounds, unfortunately no Linfield teams advanced, but we came very close! This tournament specifically was a World’s tournament, so there was international representation from Serbia, as well as teams from across the US, anywhere from New York, to Louisiana, to Texas. It was really interesting to talk with students from all across the world, and to see their competitive styles.

I had never been on a military base before, so this was a very different experience for me.  A few people on my team and I took a private tour with a cadet, and he showed us everything from his dorm, to an example classroom, to the huge church that is on the base. From hearing his personal experiences about life on the base, as a freshman, and how the ranking system and formal uniform process works, I was really taken aback. There is such a difference between our lifestyles, and I find that really interesting.

Overall, we had quite the adventure this past weekend. It began with us missing our flight because of a bad accident on the way to Portland, and ended with a really early flight back to Portland, and driving through some pretty crazy rain to return to campus. I have been involved with speech and debate since my sophomore year in high school, and I have learned so much about communication, tasteful argumentation, and how to tactfully look at two sides of an issue. I love the Linfield Forensics team because our squad is relatively small, so we have a lot of interaction with each other, and our coach, and we always manage to have a good time while traveling.

Until next time,

-Austin

 

Austin: A weekend full of culture

 

 

One of my favorite walls in Portland

One of my favorite walls in Portland

Last week was pretty full for me, filled with preparing for my first formal essay for my English class, my first chemistry exam of the semester, a research presentation during lab meeting, and preparation for my Ecology exam this week. The Oregon weather has returned, and I love it; I no longer want to spend time outside, and the weather encourages me to be more productive with homework and studying. So, after a long week of seemingly endless meetings and homework, I had a weekend jam-packed with fun!

Friday evening I attended a short play put on by the Living Theater, and students from Linfield, (a few of them my students). The structure was very different from anything I had ever seen;  it was composed of two 15 minute acts, both of which were prepared within a short 1 week period. The topics were heavily related to the Linfield PLACE (Program for Liberal Arts and Civic Engagement) theme: Legacies of War.  The plays closely examined the armed forces recruitment process on young individuals, as well as the story of WikiLeaks whistleblower, Private First Class Bradley Manning respectively. The acts were followed by an open dialogue with both of the play’s authors from the Living Theater, as well as Professor Jackson Miller (Communication Arts and Director of Forensics), as well as Professor Eric Schuck (Economics, and a US Naval Officer), as well as a Linfield Trustee. The dialogue was between those four, as well as the audience, and important questions were raised, and some passionate discussion occurred. It was a really neat experience, and a great way to spend my Friday evening.

Saturday I ventured to Portland, where a group of friends and I ate at an amazing Vietnamese restaurant, attended a concert, and saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The night was complete with Voodoo doughnuts and endless laughs.

Sunday was filled with sleep, and lots of homework, but overall my weekend was just the right amount of break that I needed from my busy life as a student. My weekend reminded me about one of the many things I love about Linfield: the location. Last weekend, I traveled to the coast for two days with the debate team, and this weekend I went to Portland for an evening full of fun. I love the variety in activities that are found in less than an hour and 15 minutes away! Alright, now I really do have to get back to work.

Until next time,

-Austin

Austin: Weekend at the Coast!

Not a bad view to enjoy my morning coffee with! It was beautiful this weekend!

Not a bad view to enjoy my morning coffee with! It was beautiful this weekend!

One of the great things about Linfield is the location: I am about an hour away from Portland, and about 45 minutes away from Lincoln City/the beach. I love where McMinnville is, because I’m only a short distance away from the city for concerts, great restaurants, shows, and the airport, and I’m only a short 45 minutes away from the relaxing atmosphere of the beach!

I’m on the Speech and Debate Team (forensics), and this past weekend we spent a night at Neskowin, a small area just North of Lincoln City. Our hotel/condo was right on the coast, and we spent a lot of time enjoying the ocean atmosphere. We had three separate sessions, each detailing a different category of events that we do. The retreat ended with a great bonfire on the beach, including duo improvisation scenes, and s’mores. It was fun to get to know some of the new students on the team, and to work on all of our communication and rhetorical skills. We are headed to Colorado in two weeks to compete at the Air Force Academy, and then in February we are off to Hawaii! I did debate in high school, and I’m really glad that I have chosen to continue in college. This year especially, I’m starting to mesh my passion for science and health care into the speech and debate world, which is really exciting. Now to work on the never-ending task, which is homework.

Until next time,

-Austin

Austin: My Summer Job

Colleen excited about flies!

Team Fly- Summer 2013

My micro-dissection setup

Team Fly’s “Office”

 

I can’t believe the school year has started and is going straight ahead, full-speed. This past summer went way too fast, especially because I didn’t leave campus. I was fortunate enough to be hired as a full time research assistant in the Lab I started working in last January. We call ourselves “Team Fly” because we work with Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies); there were three of us working full time this Summer, as well as our adviser, Dr. Catherine Reinke. I cannot begin to explain how many things I learned this summer; I learned everything from basic lab techniques, to highly innovative, and new techniques, to the basics of working in a research lab, to how to officially compile data, analyze it, and prepare it for publication. I was like a sponge, taking in everything I possibly could and then practicing it. One of the highlights for me was learning how to isolate and sequence a gene; something that I find fascinating. I started on this specific project in late June, and after many trials and errors, between my adviser, my coworkers, and myself, we came up with a new strategy on how to go about sequencing. We finally made the correct concentration, and were able to send it off for sequencing (clear to New Jersey!), and I will never forget the morning I woke up to the results; it was like I was a little kid on Christmas morning. Most of all, I loved actually being a scientist for a few months. All through high school and introductory lab courses seemed to be like a cookbook of experiments, with every approach and detail already written. However, doing research is much different; you have a lot more control and are able to explore and attempt new things you would never think of in a class. I am so grateful for the opportunity to research, and especially appreciate the benefit of getting paid to learn! I am going full-speed in the semester, and can’t wait to see where it takes me.

Until next time,

-Austin