Who are the Bowdoin Student Scientists?
We are a group of undergraduate science students at Bowdoin College with independent research experience. We study a diverse range of majors, and many of us also take a substantial number of non-science classes. In our summer fellowships, semester-long independent studies, and year-long honors projects, we use the skills we’ve learned in our science courses at Bowdoin to conduct original research on environmental change, pollution, human health, medicine, and more. Our independent research has taught us first-hand the importance of critical thinking and the scientific method to generating new and robust scientific knowledge.
Given our first-hand experience conducting research and critiquing both the work of our peers and published research, we are concerned about the implications of the recent presidential election for the direction and quality of future scientific inquiry. The role of false news in the election, President Trump’s claims about climate change, and his appointment of Scott Pruitt to lead the EPA, all fly in the face of our first-hand experience with the scientific method and established scientific literature on environmental change and pollution.
More significantly, we are concerned that the outcome of the presidential election reflects a distrust, among non-scientists, of both the scientific method and of the relevance of our research to globally significant debates over climate change, pollution, land use, and human health. We believe that the research we conduct here and hope to conduct beyond Bowdoin is critical to understanding the impact of human activities on the environment, to identifying the risks that our impact poses, and to protecting those people who will be most immediately affected by environmental change. At the same time, we recognize that the scientific research process is poorly understood by the general public.
On this site, we would like to make the scientific research process more accessible to the public from the student-researcher perspective. As student researchers, we have one foot in the world of research and the other still in the world of non-scientists; we can therefore act as bridges to help non-scientists navigate the confusion and distrust that they might feel when trying to understand the implications of scientific research, particularly in the highly-politicized realm of environmental change.
Our goal here is to provide informal and engaging explanations of the motivations behind and progress of our own independent research projects at the undergraduate level. We won’t use scientific jargon without explaining what it means or any complicated math; instead, we’ll use informal language to explain our research. We will not, however, sacrifice academic rigor in our writing; we will strive to only present writing on topics in which we have first-hand research experience, and we will include citations to peer-reviewed scientific literature so that our readers can have confidence that we’re not making stuff up. While this website was first conceived to respond to the public’s reception of environmental research, student researchers whose work may not be directly related to environmental change may also contribute to this site, giving a more holistic representation of the range of our research interests and the overarching principles of the scientific method that guide all of us as students of science.
—Danielle Haas Freeman, Class of 2017