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Letter to the Editor: 4/24

UMaine student research has Mainers’ interests at heart: Come and see for yourself!

I’ll be honest. Growing up in rural Scotland, the only things I knew about Maine were that its capital city was Augusta and that, maybe, The Masters golf tournament happened there every April, under glorious sunshine, on a course surrounded by lush, verdant vegetation. It wasn’t until I went to college — in the birthplace of golf no less, St. Andrews, Scotland — that I learned a little bit more about the Pine Tree State. First of all, April in Augusta, Maine doesn’t look anything like April in Augusta, Ga. (so I hadn’t been watching a golf tournament surrounded by the vividly green Maine countryside), and (more importantly for my career path) the University of Maine has an excellent reputation for research.

People on campus are often incredulous that their school’s reputation precedes it internationally. It’s the reason why I initially chose UMaine for my master’s degree and why it attracts graduate and undergraduate students from over 65 countries, but that’s not the reason why I’ll be staying here for a doctoral degree. For me, the edge that UMaine has over other schools is its emphasis on linking research and the communities that stand to benefit from it. Whether it’s informing the management of the state’s marine resources, developing the “creative economy” based on Maine’s valuable historical and cultural assets, or providing new technologies and resources for elderly or vulnerable Mainers, research at UMaine responds to the needs of the Maine community.

As the vice president of UMaine’s Graduate Student Government, I get a front row ticket to see all the projects graduate students and other UMaine researchers are working on, and as a tax-paying, home-owning, green card-toting Maine resident, I’m glad to know that researchers at the university have the state’s economy and future development as a priority.

To facilitate discussion between student researchers and the local communities that guide their research questions, on April 27, 2016, the Graduate Student Government and the Center for Undergraduate Research will hold the 2016 UMaine Student Research Symposium at the Cross Insurance Center in downtown Bangor.

This event will give Mainers an opportunity to interact with almost 400 graduate and undergraduate researchers from UMaine who will be presenting their research projects in a variety of formats. The UMaine Student Research Symposium, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., is free and open to the public. You might watch a presentation on how to protect our wild blueberry crops and their pollinators, participate in a heated discussion on how to address challenges of education in a rural state like ours or marvel at high-quality and expressive media exhibits created by students that help maintain and develop the artistic and cultural scene our state is known for.

UMaine’s reputation as a leading research institution attracted me for graduate study, and the opportunity to work closely with the broader community, which was so welcoming when I first arrived, makes my experience here so much more rewarding. The UMaine Student Research Symposium will let students share their hard work and learn from those who come to discuss the issues Mainers are passionate about. At the time of writing this, there isn’t much difference in temperature between Augusta, Maine and Augusta, Ga., and I’m sure there will be a student at the Symposium that can explain to me why.

Jack McLachlan is a Masters student in Ecology and Environmental Sciences and the Vice President of the Graduate Student Government at UMaine. He currently researches the tidal freshwater wetlands of Merrymeeting Bay in the Kennebec Estuary.

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