Student researches medicinal plant programs in Peru

Linfield students at Macchu PicchuAs an international relations major, Linfield College senior Sam Gauksheim has always known he wanted to have a positive impact on foreign countries. After studying in Quito, Ecuador, last spring, he decided to extend his time abroad by participating in a research project in Peru.

Gauksheim spent his summer studying the medicinal plant program at the EsSalud Complementary Medicine Clinic in Trujillo, Peru, under the direction of Tom Love, professor of anthropology and coordinator of Latin American studies at Linfield. Many medicinal plants can only be found in the mountains in Peru, so the goal of the project was to aid the Peruvians in setting up a supply chain of medicinal plants from the mountains down to the coast of Trujillo.

“The idea of doing anthropological field work with other students and professors was very appealing because it gave me experience working on a real world issue that could actually have a positive effect on people,” said Gauksheim.

Gauksheim spent his time conducting interviews, traveling and writing bi-lingual reports on the project. During interviews with government leaders, farmers, physicians and others, Gauksheim often translated for people in the research group who did not speak Spanish.

“An opportunity like this is pretty rare in most undergraduate programs, so I was really happy to be able to contribute,” said Gauksheim. “I learned how valuable it is to have the ability to read and write in another language. The fact that our report was read by important people in the Peruvian health care system gave me the confidence that my Spanish is proficient enough for a professional setting.”

Once he is done with his undergraduate studies at Linfield, Gauksheim plans to continue traveling and learning about new cultures and societies. He also hopes to further pursue his interest in conservation and the environment.

“Work in Peru reinforced the fact that I want to do something where I can have an impact internationally,” said Gauksheim. “Whatever I end up doing, this summer work definitely prepared me for professional work.”