Mason Scher C’20: Smithsonian Summer Intern

Drew professors, courses prepped her for paleontological dig in Wyoming.

September 2018 – Drew University’s Mason Scher C’20 spent the summer interning at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

While there, Scher, who’s majoring in chemistry and environmental science, studied how elevated carbon dioxide levels affect the leaves of the ginkgo tree and what that reveals about climate change. Ginkgo leaves are paleoclimate proxies—natural materials that offer evidence about past climates.

Scher’s coursework and professors at Drew—particularly Mary-Ann Pearsall and Ryan Hinrichs of the Chemistry Department—facilitated the experience. Here’s what she had to say about it.

How did you discover this internship?

My professors had been telling me to look for Research Experiences for Undergraduates, a summer program funded by the National Science Foundation. At my internship at the Great Swamp Watershed Association, a coworker told me about one of these research opportunities—the Smithsonian internship—and I applied.

How did you get it?

My experience with the Drew Summer Science Institute really helped. Dr. Hinrichs wrote a recommendation that included a lot of information about how I work in a lab. My experience in RISE [Research Institute for Scientists Emeriti] was also really helpful. In RISE, I did a project on paleoclimate proxies. When they saw that, they said, “She actually knows something about this.”

What did you learn?

This program had a lot of professional development opportunities. I learned a lot about the process of applying to grad school and more about laboratory techniques. And I learned what it takes to be a field paleontologist when I spent 10 days in Wyoming collecting fossils.

Who are your biggest mentors?

Dr. Hinrichs and Dr. Pearsall. I’ve done research with Dr. Hinrichs and he has been incredible at getting me into the lab, as early as freshman year. Dr. Pearsall is my advisor and I’ve spent hours in her office and taken three classes with her.

What’s next?

I’m spending a semester at the University of Colorado at Boulder to take upper-level geology courses. But I’ll return to to Drew to finish up my undergraduate degree because I love the people and the opportunities. Then, hopefully, I’ll apply to grad school for geochemistry.

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