Student Spotlight: An Nguyen, Environmental Science Undergraduate, UW-Stout

An Nguyen is an international student originally from Vietnam who is majoring in Environmental Science at UW-Stout. After graduation, she hopes to get a job in conservation and restoration areas that need testing and research.

Through the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin, she had the opportunity to complete an internship at the Environmental Research and Innovation Center (ERIC) at UW Oshkosh. From May to September 2022, 22 students from UW-Eau Claire, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, UW Oshkosh, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Stout and UW-Whitewater worked in the ERIC and its community embedded labs, analyzing 2,200 water samples for business and community partners.

Here’s what Nguyen said about her experience at the ERIC lab.

Why did you want to work in the ERIC?

I was looking for a summer internship because I want to gain professional skills as well as figure out if I would like to work in a lab in the future.

What projects did you work on and what skills did you gain from that work?

Nguyen learned how to set up and maintain hydroponics system.

I took part in biogas testing, compost testing, bacteria testing and hydroponics. For biogas potential testing, I read gas volume and analyzed the portion of the gases in the eudio tubes. Regarding compost testing, I did total solid and volatile solid testings. To test for bacteria, we used media to examine the presence of coliforms in drinking water and surface water.

I grew tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and lettuce on a hydroponics system and learned how to set up the system and keep track of its pH, electronic conductivity, temperature, nitrate and nitrite frequently in order to adjust the amount of nutrients added.

Throughout these projects, I gained research skills, data management practices and applied theory to real-life testing. I am also aware of lab safety, quality assurance and quality control when carrying out tests.

Were there benefits to working in a lab at a different university?

I had the chance to work with students from different universities. They created and encouraged diversity in the workplace, letting us exchange ideas and build networks.

What was your favorite part about this research experience?

The favorite part is that I did not only take part in the lab procedure but was also involved in the sampling process and outreach activities, such as being a teaching assistant and boat inspector to act on invasive species. 

How will the skills in this internship help you attain your career goal?

Working in the lab helped me have a better idea of how real-life research takes place, increased my communication skills and expanded my networking.