I was recruited fresh out of high school to join the Flux Lab team and it was a huge leap. I went from the limitations and confines of high school to a big research team at a university filled with experienced, mature people holding buckets of degrees. In short, I was nervous and felt out of place surrounded by expensive equipment, new scientific lingo, and what seemed like one hundred gas cylinders. I felt overwhelmed by everyone’s knowledge and the fact that it was so different from my previous jobs. Thankfully, that feeling went away fairly quick.

Electrochemical gas sensor set-up that I designed and built, with help from Dave Risk

I first noticed that people in the lab were very helpful. If I had a question, someone was always willing to help. It was extremely easy to learn because everyone freely shared their knowledge. It was strange to me, but I was treated as an equal. In my mind, I was this high school kid with good marks, but with no research or lab experience, I felt inferior to co-workers. It was clear though that everyone’s opinion matters. Each person substantially contributes to the lab in their own way once they find their place, and it doesn’t take long with guidance from others.

Dan Wesley, using a modified air core sampling system we designed, measuring methane from a natural spring

A perk of being surrounded by seasoned lab members is that you learn from their experiences and mistakes. For example, even though it seems so simple, making a list and double checking to make sure you have everything is essential to making field research go smoothly. As it turns out, forgetting even the smallest item can ruin a day in the field. Although disappointing and usually very frustrating, making mistakes helps you improve. This notion is accepted throughout the lab and, as a group, we learn by errors as well as successes.

Another advantage of being a student surrounded by professionals and graduate students is that with their help, how-to-guides, and reports simple tasks that may take a while to figure out can be quickly accomplished. This is especially important when using  expensive gear like a $100 000 Picarro gas analyzer, where an error could cost $1000s. Although, I learned the hard way that when someone is showing you something, you better take notes! A task that seems simple at the time, is nearly impossible to complete if you forget the instructions. A notebook for record keeping is essential to being productive, especially if you are as forgetful as I.

Using this modified truck, Dan and I sampled atmospheric gases in the Mackenzie Delta region, NWT

Being part of FluxLab makes me (usually) feel more mature than my years. Learning from experienced co-workers is important for building upon my professionalism and communication skills. Working in this lab fresh out of high school was a huge, positive change for me, and over the last two years I have been extremely thankful to members of the Flux Lab for fostering my intellectual capacity, involving me in new adventures, and mentoring me in professional relationships.

By Isaac Ketchum