The next few months were a mad dash of planning and prep work. I met Rabi, another of Gautham’s friends. Her expertise in water quality, the focus of this year’s trip, would be an asset in Panama. Despite her crazy work load as a fifth-year grad student, she couldn’t pass up on the adventure either. We collected a group of ambitious students and headed to Portobelo.
But as soon as we arrived, we realized the project we had designed needed to be modified to better serve the community. What was intended to be a project focused primarily on teaching water quality testing with only a minor water treatment component turned into a project almost entirely aimed at providing the community with water chlorination kits and extensive hands-on outreach. We revamped the schedule nightly, which did not go unnoticed by our students, waiting patiently for us to let them know what to expect next. But the planning we had done helped us think on our feet and we came away with a project that focused far more on community outreach than originally planned.
I’m so glad I volunteered as a trip leader. From this experience, I’ve learned I love teaching. This summer, I’ll travel to Bogotá, Columbia to teach a course at the Universidad de los Andes and I plan to pursue a professorship in a teaching focused institution this fall. So if you get a chance to work with Future Scientist, don’t think about it too hard. Just say you’ll do it. You’ll thank me later.
- Jessica Allen
Postdoctoral Scholar, University of California, San Francisco