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Gillian Bergmann | Bioresource Research | Portland, OR
I was a Biochemistry and Biophysics major when I first arrived at OSU, which I had chosen due to suggestions from my community and my interest in medicine. However, I realized within my first year of college that the major wasn’t a great fit for me, and that I wanted to pursue a degree with focus on the environment, research and science education. While planning to change my major, my advisors at the time recommended I consider the Bioresource Research major because of its customizability and research focus. Additionally, I had done a project on biotechnology in agriculture while in high school, so I was excited to learn more about agriculture in the US and improving sustainability of our food systems.
In terms of impacts from my studies, one of the largest and most valuable parts of my degree has been my research project. I am working with Dr. Posy Busby (pictured above) in the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology to characterize the fungi that live inside Douglas-fir seeds and if any of these fungi alter seedling drought tolerance. This project has potential applications in the forestry and nursery industries, as well as providing forest conservationists with tools to help forest resilience with increased drought due to climate change. One of the reasons I enjoy doing this research is because it has the potential to be applied in industry and forest conservation/restoration. Additionally, as a city-raised student in the agricultural sciences, one of the skills that I’ve found most profound is learning to communicate with people of different backgrounds, particularly when addressing the urban-rural divide that surrounds US agriculture today.
When I was a high school student, I got to volunteer as a student leader for the MESD Outdoor School program (an environmental education program for 6th grade students). I had participated in the program as a 6th grade student, and was very excited to give back to the program. I volunteered with Outdoor School for three years, and it was one of my favorite experiences from high school. It was with this program that I realized my love of teaching, and the tremendous value of education in society. My career goal is to be a research professor in fungal ecology, and one of the main reasons I want to pursue this is because of the teaching experience I got at Outdoor School.
"My time at OSU has been impactful because I’ve built a community with other students through clubs."
In five years, I see myself being partway through a PhD program in mycology/plant microbiology, hopefully with a Fulbright research internship incorporated into the program. The opportunities I’ve had to conduct research in the field of fungal ecology and to conduct research internationally have been the drivers of my choice to follow this path. Additionally, conducting research in the US and New Zealand has given me various skills needed at the graduate level, including creating a study, applying for funding, networking with other scientists and writing scientific papers for publication. Because these opportunities were made available through my major and through the College of Ag Sciences exchange program with Lincoln University, my education in AgSci has directly introduced me to experiences and skills that have and will prepare me for academic work in the future.
I definitely subscribe to John Dewey’s teaching philosophy of “learning by doing,” as many of the most memorable and impactful moments in my education thus far have been based on experiential learning. As such, my favorite classes, clubs and other learning experiences are based on applying knowledge I’ve picked up. Thinking back on the experiences I’ve had at OSU in the agricultural sciences, the following hands-on experiences stand out to me:
I am currently on a study abroad program at Lincoln University in New Zealand until November, which is an awesome and affordable program offered to OSU AgSci students. So far, the most valuable part of the experience has been getting to experience other cultures (both through being here and interacting with other exchange students and local/kiwi students) and to expand upon my research experience through doing a research placement with the Bio-Protection Research Centre on campus. One of the most interesting parts of the experience so far has been seeing how different the education system is here compared to OSU, in terms of how courses are structured. The most fun part I’ve had has been learning a bunch of new skills (such as backpacking, skiing, rock-n-roll dance style), trying new foods, making new friends from around the world and exploring the Christchurch area on my bicycle.
One of the major challenges of my college career has been being able to afford the costs of my education. I am dependent on financial aid to cover the expenses of college, and so applying for jobs and scholarships has been an important part of making sure I stay successful at OSU. I am fortunate and grateful that the College of Agricultural Sciences has scholarships available to apply for, and that there are also prestigious scholarships available. The latter has been a huge source of financial support for my study abroad in New Zealand. In order to maintain financial support for my education, I regularly apply for scholarships, as well as working part time with the Department of Crop and Soil Science.
Gillian Bergmann Awards & Affiliations: OSU Honors College, Gamma Sigma Delta Honors Society, Presidential Scholar, recipient of the Waldo-Cummings Outstanding Student Award, recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, officer of the OSU Mycology Club, member of the OSU Cycling and Botany clubs