Summer at Noble Refreshes Young Scientist’s Perspective

Summer internship reflection by Liza Antonelli ’21, 2019 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Plant Science

I believe that it is really difficult to see the impact of an event in one’s life except in hindsight. I was interviewed by a local newspaper last week, and the first question they asked me was: “How has this summer changed your life?” It’s a question I flinched at. Is it really reasonable to expect that just 10 weeks could impact a person’s life that deeply? My pride wants to believe that it is impossible.

When I received the call that I was being invited to intern here at Noble as a plant science scholar, I was in disbelief. I thought for sure my application had been passed over long ago. I took a few days, thought and prayed about it, and decided to accept the position. It was a huge step for me to choose to come to Ardmore, Oklahoma, for the summer, as I had never traveled from my home on the East Coast to this part of the U.S. before, and I was afraid of the many unknowns.

I arrived in Ardmore with the hope for a productive, yet peaceful, summer. What I received instead was a rewriting of expectations and a refreshed perspective.

What I Learned

I have learned that I do not need to be stiff or laser-focused in order to make it as a scientist. Instead, I can be inquisitive, creative, careful and attentive. I can find joy in my work and see the beauty in a well-designed experiment. I learned what it means to be a good scientist: to fail productively. To approach challenges with a sense of adventure.

I learned that it is possible to wear dresses and sparkly eyeliner and to still be serious about your work. Attention to detail does not need to equate to perfection or orderliness. Tea breaks are good. Arguments and tough questions are good. Even spending all day making solutions, and then remaking those solutions because you added the wrong chemical at the last step, even those days are good. Plant science is about appreciating something really complex for a really simple reason: the satisfaction found in asking interesting questions and finding answers to them.

I am so thankful to Noble for the opportunity to spend a summer exploring plant biology.  I think the largest measurable impact of this summer will be the renewed vision I have for my goals and the refreshed interest in my studies. I expect to return to school with more intention and purpose. However, my experiences celebrating friendship and community with my roommates, mentors, and friends have by far been my favorite part of this experience. Camping, hiking, exploring Oklahoma, spending nights just hanging out in the apartment, stargazing — all of this has made my summer truly wonderful.

Liza Antonelli is a 2019 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Plant Science from Killingly, Connecticut. She is a junior biology major at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts. This summer, she worked with mentors Sonali Roy and Marcus Griffiths, both postdoctoral fellows at the Noble Research Institute, on a project focused on understanding the effect of peptides on nutrient uptake in Medicago truncatula, an annual legume used in genomics research.

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