The BUMP Experience: Erin McLean’s story

I will be the first person to say that being a Marine Science major is the best thing anyone could do at BU.  The students are hard-working but laid back, the faculty are knowledgeable and fun, and the courses are not only taught in the class, but also out in the field.  However, you can be so much more than just a marine major here – you can do it all if you put your mind to it.

I came into my first semester at BU super excited about being a marine major. I was so ready to dive into my oceanography and marine bio classes, but CAS has some general education requirements that I had to get out of the way first.  I try to never approach a class as something to “get out of the way,” though, so I picked literature-based subjects for my writing classes.  I always liked literature in high school.  Anyway, long story short, I was reminded through those classes how much I loved writing papers and reading novels, so I sat down with my advisor (the delightful department head John Finnerty) and asked him if he thought it was possible for me to do both.  We took a look at the class requirements for each major and I was able to fit it all in without overloading.  I love being a dual major in English and Marine Science – I feel better prepared for scientific writing and communication, and it’s always nice to balance harder (for me) science classes with easier (for me) English classes, especially around finals time.

My time at BU wasn’t spent all in class, though.  I was lucky enough to do lots of research, both directed and independent.  BU’s Marine Semester, a whole semester of research-based classes, was one of the best experiences I could have hoped for.  We did field work in different sub-fields and learned how to work under pressure, as well as write papers and present to scientific audiences.  That semester inspired me to take on more research opportunities, and I started to do independent work in Dr. Finnerty’s (my advisor’s) marine genomics lab, running different tests and looking at where in sea anemones various genes are expressed.  That wasn’t enough research for me (because there is never really enough!) and so I applied for and got a funded summer research experience all the way down south in Dauphin Island, AL.  I got to design my own project on fish foraging habits, and my results were so good that I’m actually being funded to present them at a scientific meeting (of the Association of the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography) in New Orleans.

Erin ferocious shramping


Erin at sea


Erin and the shark

Somehow in between all that, I managed to make local and national news by winning Jeopardy’s College Championship.  I had to study in between my classes, my volunteer position at the New England Aquarium, and my job at a local video rental store, but I somehow managed to squeeze enough info in to win the trophy, BU’s first win.

With all that going on, I was worried I wouldn’t have time for a study abroad experience.  I had always wanted to go to Europe while in college, so I made sure to work extra hard and got accepted to study in BU’s science program in Dresden, Germany.  I lived there for four months with pre-med kids learning chemistry, biology, and stats, as well as learning all about the culture of Germany.

With my mom at the Eiffel Tower

Holding Up The Tower of Pisa

At Monte Carlo in Monaco

View of Dresden

Hiking in Saxon Switzerland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a crazy four years for me, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.  There were lots of days were I felt overwhelmed by my schoolwork, or by internship applications, or I just felt that there wasn’t enough time in the day (or in my four years of undergrad education) to get all I wanted done.  Luckily, I had some great people to fall back on – my friends in the major, who are some of the coolest people I’ve ever met, and of course my professors.  I was able to accomplish so much because I had goals and I wasn’t going to compromise them just because it wasn’t going to be easy.  Working tirelessly on something I love like marine science never felt like hard work to me – it felt like I was doing something I was meant for.  Now, applying to grad school, I have an edge most other students don’t – a sincere love of what I do and the experience to back it up.  Choosing BU and choosing marine science was the best thing I ever could have done; pushing my boundaries and never giving up made me the successful (almost!) graduate I am today.

 

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