Pushing outside her comfort zone

- November 25, 2019

Student Janessa Rathgeber. (Nick Pearce photo)
Student Janessa Rathgeber. (Nick Pearce photo)

When Janessa Rathgeber pushed herself outside her comfort zone, she was rewarded with a meaningful summer research experience and a boost in confidence.

“I wanted to gain research experience to figure out if pursuing it in the future through a master’s degree is right for me,” says Janessa.

Working in Chris Cutler’s entomology lab this summer, Janessa was researching the behavioural effect of a certain type of pesticide on spined soldier bugs or stink bugs. It’s an opportunity that wouldn’t have been possible without the David and Faye Sobey Agricultural Undergraduate Research Award.

“My time in the lab has been a huge learning opportunity,” says Janessa, who is from Truro. “The last two summers I worked on ground maintenance at the Agricultural Campus, which I liked, but it didn’t put me ahead academically.”

Working in Dr. Cutler’s lab has been much different. Explaining her summer research, Janessa says: “I treat the bugs with various concentrations to simulate pesticide application in a crop field then I observe their behaviour in different settings,” she says. “First I watch their movement in a plastic cup, then on a cabbage plant, and finally their movement and predatory behaviour in a container with mealworms.”

The goal is to identify the dose to treat and control pests in an agricultural field, without damaging the beneficial stink bugs.

Making an impact

Interesting work is just one of the many benefits Janessa has experienced this summer. She says she’s developed a better work ethic and has gained an understanding of what makes a good research project. But the change in her confidence has been the greatest benefit.

“I have terrific mentors in the lab who have given me so much independence, which has truly boosted my confidence,” she says. “I used to think research was big and scary and something that only smart people can do. I’ve been able to do things [successfully] on my own and now I know research is not as daunting as I had thought. I feel capable of pursuing it in the future if that’s what I choose.”

Now as she begins her fourth year, she will continue to work on this project as she’s chosen it as the topic for her fourth-year honours project.

“It’s hard to express the gratitude I have for this award. I really wanted to be a part of this project but without funds, I likely wouldn’t have taken the position because I need to pay for my education. I’m fortunate to be paid for a summer job that relates to my program while being a part of a lab with great people. I’m looking forward to continuing my work.”


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