Learning about how and why things happen in the natural environment has always been a passion of Met High School sophomore Tyla Morin. It was just happenstance that a family friend of Morin’s advisor, Kate Booth, knew of a lab at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography that would mentor a high schooler. Morin jumped at the opportunity to study the ocean and learn what it is like to be an oceanographer. His interest in the ocean is longstanding because “there is a lot of mystery around the ocean, and there is so much to discover.”
Learning how to conduct and present research
Morin is a student at the Met High School in Providence, Rhode Island where students have individualized learning plans catered to their passions. Twice a week, Met students travel off-campus to their internship sites to gain experience and skills in their chosen field. Learning through internships helps students acquire skills that they may not otherwise learn in a traditional classroom setting.
While at GSO, Morin worked in the Rynearson Lab under the mentorship of PhD students Diana Fontaine and Sam Setta. On Wednesdays his work was computer-based; he analyzed data from the Narragansett Bay Long-term Plankton Time Series and learned how to conduct research. On Fridays, he completed more hands-on learning, such as laboratory techniques for collecting, culturing and measuring phytoplankton. During his time in the Rynearson lab, Morin was able to explore a habitat that has always been of interest to him. “I’ve been extremely passionate about science since I was a kid, especially the ocean” Morinsaid. “So it was a great opportunity to be at GSO and explore science.”
I felt like GSO was a place I actually belonged to because I got to be on a college campus and in a lab, and my mentors helped me feel comfortable and explained everything in detail…I felt like Diana and Sam made a very positive impact on my life.Tyla Morin
At the end of each internship, Met students are tasked with presenting their research and progress. During Morin’s presentation, his interests and growth as a scientist were clear. He put together a cohesive story about phytoplankton and their importance in the marine environment. Morin was faced with the difficult task of presenting to an audience with mixed science experience composed of both his high school classmates and members of the Rynearson Lab. He did a fantastic job and covered a lot of ground during his presentation, from explaining what phytoplankton are to the factors that affect their growth. Morin also presented some of the many graphs he made during his internship. Data visualization seems to be one of his favorite skills that he learned. “I like seeing where the data comes from and the backstory of it,” he said.
Growing as students and mentors
Not only did Morin gain experience during his time in the lab, but Fontaine and Setta also learned from him. When Morin joined the Rynearson Lab in the fall of 2018, neither of the PhD students had formally mentored a student before. Both were excited to teach an eager young scientist about their work, yet nervous about how to properly teach him the ways of an oceanographer. However, Morin encouraged their instruction with enthusiasm. During his final presentation, it was obvious that he learned a lot while at GSO. When asked about his experience, Morin said, “Overall, I had a lot of fun this year working with Diana and Sam. I felt like GSO was a place I actually belonged to because I got to be on a college campus and in a lab, and my mentors helped me feel comfortable and explained everything in detail…I felt like Diana and Sam made a very positive impact on my life.”
At his previous internship, Morin investigated the overwhelmingly large universe using telescopes. While at GSO, Morin switched gears to focus on the intricacies of microscopic organisms. This range in research reflects his curiosity about the mysteries of the world around him and his passion for science. For his next internship, he hopes to find a lab working on sharks or fish as this is where his true interest lies.
GSO wishes Tyla well on his future endeavors!