Emilie Washer gives insightful advice to conference participants

Emilie Washer, a student in the Purdue College of Agriculture, is conducting research on genetically modified cotton. Her role as an undergraduate research assistant range from survey data collection and entry to quantitative and qualitative data analysis. Her work involves looking for any trends in the data and how those trends contribute to the overall research project’s objectives. These projects are focused on Bt cotton, a type of cotton that was genetically modified to produce an insecticide that prevents bollworm infestations. The research mainly overlooks how the introduction of Bt cotton affected the local farmers in India socially, economically, agriculturally, and environmentally.

She started her research experience her first year at Purdue when one of the professors in the Forestry and Natural Resources Department presented their work in Emilie’s learning community class. Emily was really interested in learning more about social science and its corresponding research and contacted her professor with the interest in working in their lab. The professor was happy to introduce Emilie to some of her graduate students to learn more about what they were working on. She became interested in one of the Ph.D. student’s research on Improved Seed Technology and the different impacts types of genetically modified crops can have.

“I have been working in the Human Dimensions Lab at Purdue for almost all 8 semesters, and it is one of the best experiences that I have had here at Purdue.”

Emilie Washer

Emilie mentioned that one of the most important things that she has learned from her own research projects and others’ is that finding and collecting the data is important, but interpreting it is just as important – if not more. She thinks that interpreting and understanding what the data mean has several management and policy implications, especially in the natural resource and environmental fields. She also mentioned that one of the reasons she decided to pursue a law degree after her graduation is because she thinks, “It is important that the knowledge that we gain from research should be taken into account when new and current policies are made and modified.”

“It is important that the knowledge that we gain from research should be taken into account when new and current policies are made and modified.”

Emilie Washer

Her experiences with research helped her learn more about the scientific process, how data is collected, and the different ways it can be interpreted. In addition, reading and interpreting dense, scientific literature, will be helpful in her future law program and career. She is thankful to Dr. Zhao Ma, Dr. Becca Nixon, and Chelsea Silva, who have all been very influential and helpful in her research experience. She believes it takes a lot of confidence for someone to lead their own project, and it is amazing to get to present something that you are really passionate about. Her word of advice to participants at the upcoming Spring Undergraduate Research Conference is, “Even though presenting can be daunting for some people, it’s really just about teaching others what you have learned and spreading that knowledge that will only improve our lives.”

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