Undergraduate Programs

Two Things I Learned About Myself at Clarkson Biology Department

Hello! My name is Elyse Scott ‘22, and I am a junior biology major here at Clarkson. I am from a small town in New Hampshire and I originally came to Clarkson with the intention of pursuing an environmental engineering degree. However, I quickly learned a few things about myself and about my passions and decided to switch to the biology program. 

Looking back, I realized that there are two main things that I have discovered about myself and the environment while pursuing my biology degree here at Clarkson and I would like to share these with you.

I am not suited for sitting behind a desk

Growing up, I was always outside. I was constantly running around, covered in grass and dirt, always searching for the coolest rocks and bugs to show my parents. I was a master tree climber and snow fort architect. My parents had me hiking and skiing as soon as I could walk, and nature quickly became the place where I felt the most alive. 

As I got closer to choosing what major I wanted to tackle, I knew I wanted to do something in the environmental field. I wanted to work in my childhood playground and give back to the place where I felt the most at home. I did not do as much research as I probably should have at that point in my life and environmental engineering seemed like a perfect fit for me. When choosing colleges, I picked Clarkson because of its small community, prestigious engineering program, and the possibility of participating in the Adirondack Semester. 

A person holding up a gloved hand with an insect on their palm
Me enjoying nature with my snail friend Bartholomew while participating in field work during the Adirondack Semester.

So, I moved into my dorm freshman year and prepared myself mentally for becoming an engineer. However, after sitting through a few of my freshman engineering courses, I quickly realized that engineering was not the path for me. Many of the jobs that environmental engineers have are not what I would want to be doing with my life. 

I knew I wanted to be doing something outdoors and more hands-on with nature. I knew that I needed to be with nature more and, after spending some time with google, I decided that I really wanted to be in the biology program at Clarkson. I spoke with some of the professors and figured out that the best thing for me would be to pursue a biology degree with a minor in environmental science.

Once I was finally in the biology programs, I fell in love with the classes I was taking and was able to really pinpoint where I wanted to go with my career. 

One way in which I knew I could gain experience would be through the Adirondack Semester that is offered every fall at Clarkson. I applied and was accepted for the fall 2020 semester and participated in an integrated research project that was focused on mercury accumulation in vernal pools. That semester was by far the most rewarding semester that I have ever had at Clarkson. I learned so much about myself and it really helped me understand my dreams of becoming a conservation biologist in the hopes of giving something back to the environment. 

A group of people standing at the top of a mountain
The Adirondack Semester was an amazing opportunity to make new friends and participate in hands-on research.

Through this semester I gained an appreciation for conducting research in the field, outside of my biology department. I got to do hands-on work and for the first time, experience what it would be like to do research on the environment. This really opened my eyes to the reality that I am not going to be happy doing a job where I sit behind a desk all day long.  

Although the research aspect of the Adirondack semester helped me realize where my passions lie in terms of a career path, it also taught me the importance of having a sense of place. 

Every semester, there is a backpacking trip that takes place for three days and two nights. Throughout this trip, I was having a great time and really enjoying the hiking and the company of the cohort, but I also realized that I felt at home in these woods. While looking up at the stars one night, through the branches of the trees, I knew that I would need a career in which I could be outside for at least one day a week and where I could be protecting these woods and the creatures scurrying around me. 

This backpacking trip and the whole semester really opened my eyes to the reality that I am not going to be happy doing a job where I sit behind a desk all day long and that my career needed to be focused on protecting the environment that I cherish so much.

Clarkson is the ideal place for me to be

There are many aspects of Clarkson that I have come to love over the years and they have made me realize that there is no place better for me to be, especially for the path of biology, environment and sustainability that I am choosing. The small, close-knit community and the passion that Clarkson has for sustainability make it the ideal place for people like me.

When making that final decision about where I wanted to spend my four years at college, it was important to me to choose a place where I would feel the most comfortable. I came from a small town where every teacher knew who I was. I needed to make sure that I would be somewhere where I could make personal connections with professors so that I could have the best experiences possible, and Clarkson is by far the most ideal place for that. 

A group of people standing at the top of a mountain
The best part about nature is enjoying it with great friends.

Although I still have over a year left, I have already made many connections with professors who are willing to help me with any aspect of my education as well as my life. When I walk down the hallway I do not just get a smile and a wave, I get a, “Oh, Elyse! How are you doing?” 

Clarkson’s ambitions toward sustainability are something that I only began to see once I was on campus and immersed in campus life. When talking to other students about my passions, I found that many other students were also interested in sustainability and the environment. There are so many clubs on campus that focus on the environment and sustainability that it is nearly impossible to not find yourself involved with some type of project or initiative to help the planet. 

As an incoming freshman, it was nice to see so many student-led clubs that had very similar ideologies as myself and it felt less intimidating than reaching out to a professor right away for research possibilities. In many of these clubs, there are opportunities to participate in research or projects which help communities all over the world. It was my participation in these clubs that really helped me figure out where I wanted to go with my career and what my options were.   

Not only are there students who are leading the charge for environmental sustainability on campus, but there are also so many professors that are just as enthusiastic about environmental science and sustainability. I have had the pleasure of speaking to and working with professors whose passion for these fields are beyond belief and who have guided me to where I want to be. 

The professors at Clarkson are all extremely passionate about what they teach, and that passion gets passed on to their students. The advisors really take the time to get to know the students and know their ambitions and aspirations so that they can guide students on the correct paths. 

My advisors have done exactly this, and I could not be more thankful for the guidance and help I have been given. After working closely with professors during the Adirondack Semester, I realized that I would not have these same experiences if they were not as passionate as they are for what they do and what they specialize in. The professors are really what make Clarkson as prestigious as it is. Without their passion, it would not be the same institution and it would not be the place for me. 

Clarkson really helped me see what I want from life and has taught me so much about who I am. I could not be more grateful for the experiences I have had and relationships I have made along the way. Choosing the perfect major and the perfect college did not come easy, but figuring out where my passions were was the best thing, and with some help along the way, Clarkson has shown me where I need to be going from here to reach my goals of helping the environment. 

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