This is part three of a series on the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP).

By: Jacob Newsome
Biological and Biomedical Sciences 
Texas A&M University – Kingsville

My name is Jacob Newsome and I was an SROP intern in the summer of 2019. I am from Texas A&M-Kingsville. I performed my research with the Entomology department about making plant-based insecticides to combat the growing mosquito problem. Mosquitoes are more than annoying pests that bite you. They also transmit several diseases that have caused millions of deaths. My research experience was rigorous. I felt like SROP gave me a realistic expectation of doing research and what that entails.

There were eight of us total in the program. Coming from a rural college town, the idea of going to Wooster, a rural town, had me concerned. From the first day what made the difference for me was having a mentor that wanted to be involved in our experience. From day one, Gary Closs was there to help us integrate ourselves into Wooster. As a man that is not only black but also queer, I was worried about how I would integrate into Wooster and research.

Picture of the cohort at our final research presentation

I was very surprised to say that I felt accepted by my cohort. Pamela Thomas, the person that oversees our program, constantly clued me in on various events for LGBTQ individuals. She even found a way for me to attend the Columbus Pride. I think what made me more comfortable was to know the administration was on my side and wanted me there. That made the difference.

In a research context, I learned a couple of things. Firstly, work hard on your project. It is yours and yours alone, and how you progress your project reflects on your work ethic. Secondly, please keep a separate notebook detailing your errors in your project. You will be constantly quizzed on where you went wrong. Identifying your errors matters if you want to move your project forward. Thirdly, first impressions matter. The first week you enter your program will set the tone for how people see you.

Always keep in mind that you are contributing to a body of knowledge. You will often be the first person to do your idea. That can be scary but also really fun. I really liked research because it is an intersection between creation and marketing. You are cultivating this idea and project that could be impactful years to come for so many people. But, in that same vein, you need to convince people that your work is as important as you think it is.

In a social context, my cohort was mixed with students from various backgrounds. My advice for students would be to keep an open mind to everyone’s experiences and backgrounds. However, bring your entire self to your program. Your experiences matter too. I truly believe that you will become a better you through learning other people’s experiences.

How students can have successful mentor relationships depends on how you engage with your mentor. They can be a resource for you and also a comforting ear. My advice to the programs would be to make sure the people you hire as mentors are open minded and accepting individuals. Please be mindful of the intersections a student is at. I was fortunate to have a mentor such as Gary Closs, who was very accepting of me and helped me be all that I could be. Even to this day, we keep in contact with each other and I think that matters to me.

Because of how well I fit into the SROP program and how the research went, I feel as though being an SROP scholar was one of my best internships in undergrad. I did not imagine I would grow so close to seven other individuals in 10 weeks but they were truly like family to me. We still keep in contact and I was lucky to get to experience the beautiful lives of these individuals, even if it was just for a summer.