Name: Lauren Mellenthin
Hometown: Naperville, Illinois (IL)
Major and graduation date: Animal Ecology, with minor in Environmental Studies, May 2019
Favorite ISU class: Vertebrate Biology (Biol 365/A Ecl 365) taught by Dr. Dean Adams was my favorite class. I was able to view animal biology from a new perspective of evolution, which turned everything I thought I knew about animal biology on its head. Another one of my favorite aspects of the class was how enthusiastic Dr. Adams was in teaching the material and engaging with students. This inspired me to continue learning beyond this class and in my current research!
Job Title & Company: PhD Student (Candidate soon hopefully) in the Dunn Lab at Yale University
Major Job/Position Responsibilities: I research the evolution of gelatinous animal bodies with a focus on gelatinous zooplankton such as jellyfish. I use an interdisciplinary approach that combines both biology and physics to understand the gelatinousness of jellyfish through the perspective of material science. I also have requirements specific to my department such as teaching classes and taking classes.
What I like most about my job/position: I think most people would agree that jellyfish are cool but using them in my research has taught me so much about fundamental biological concepts and the possible origins of life. I was always interested in space, animals, chemistry, and evolution but I never thought there was a career path available that would allow me to combine them such as I do now. I get to work with physicists, aquarists, and biologists who all help me with my research questions. However, I would argue that the best thing would be collecting the jellyfish! I get to SCUBA dive and participate in research cruises where we collect deep sea jellyfish from 3000m down with a remote-operated vehicle (ROV), which is like peeking into another world!
What advice would I give to current students pursuing a career in Agriculture and Life Sciences? Try everything! There were so many classes, clubs, events, and conversations with faculty at Iowa State that really gave me the opportunities to figure out what I do and do not want to do after graduation. The classes teach you the fundamentals of your field, but it is only through real-life experience that you get to learn the most. This experience could come from internships, research, or study abroad experiences that are all made available through the faculty and peers around you. Everyone wants a chance to see you succeed at your own goals, but it is up to you to figure out what those goals are! You got this!