I spent this summer as a REU (research experience for undergraduates ) intern at Harvard Forest, an ecological research site in Petersham, Massachusetts. While most of the research conducted at Harvard Forest is focused on long-term ecological experiments, I worked on a less traditional but interdisciplinary project that was a continuation of a long-term collaboration between Harvard Forest ecologists and computer scientists at the University of Massachusetts. Modern experiments often involve networks of sophisticated sensors that produce huge amounts of data, and scientists lack appropriate software tools to keep track of the origins of these datasets as they are manipulated and shared. My project was to apply software engineering techniques to these problems of data provenance in ecological experiments, using software concepts developed at the University of Massachusetts and a network of hydrology sensors in a small forested watershed at Harvard Forest.
One of the stated goals of the REU program is to give undergraduates a sense of whether they want to pursue research as a career. After a summer in an active research community working on a fascinating project, I'm gratified to know that I'm on the right path, and I'm excited to continue this project as my senior thesis at Mount Holyoke.