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Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program

J. Checo Colón-Gaud

 What Summer did you participate in the K-State REU Program: 1999

Highest Degree Earned: PhD Zoology, Southern Illinois University, 2008

Current Position: Assistant Professor, Biology, Georgia Southern University

Website: Departmental Lab

Photos: Now (right)

Briefly describe your REU research project. 

My Konza REU project assessed in situ growth rates of larval midges (Diptera: Chironomidae) in forested reaches at Kings Creek.   

What did you learn from this REU project?
Through my REU experience I learned the importance of study design, replication, time management, and hypothesis testing. Although the study was primarily descriptive in nature, my REU mentor (and his army of graduate students) made a point of exposing me to the rigors of field studies and basic concepts in stream ecology (from field methods to basic literature). More importantly, I left the REU knowing 100% that graduate school would be my next step. Coincidentally, my REU advisor also became my doctoral advisor 4 years and a MS degree down the road. 

What was the best thing you remember about your summer in Manhattan, KS? 
Without a doubt, the experiences with the other REU interns and the current graduate students in the Biology program at KSU. Coming from an island, I'm not sure I could have pointed Manhattan, KS in a map prior to the REU. From the time spent at Konza to the many other adventures experienced around Manhattan during the summer (camping, canoeing, concerts, even a rodeo), the REU experience was one that I'll never forget from my undergraduate degree.

Briefly describe how the REU influenced your development as biologist
The REU gave my first hands on experience in developing and conducting an independent research project from start to finish. This was more demanding than just assisting in someone's research project, but also more fruitful and exciting. Seeing how it all unfolds from the early weeks of designing the project, to the long days of sample collection and later analyzing, to the development of presentations and dissemination of results. This experience might have been the one that sparked the fire.    

Did your experience in the REU significantly influence your career goals?  If so, how? 
Yes. The Konza program was my second REU experience and I'm not sure I would be here today if I had only experienced the first one. Not only did it spark my enthusiasm for stream ecology and research, but it also opened my eyes to the many aspects of long term research projects and in a smaller portion the NSF. Since the time spent at Konza I've been able to go back to the site as a graduate student (assisting other projects), but also as a professional (my first invited seminar after completing my PhD was at KSU and at the same room where my REU presentation had taken place 10 yrs earlier). Since completing my PhD I've served as a mentor for 3 REU interns in another LTER (LUQ) and hope to continue participating in similar programs in the future.

Did you publish or present your REU research?  If so please provide the details.  
I presented my REU research as an undergraduate thesis and at a local/regional meeting upon returning from the summer program.
“In situ growth rates for Chironomidae (Diptera) in two habitats of Kings Creek” The 5th Symposium on Resources of the Chihuahuan Desert Region: US and Mexico, Sul Ross University, Sul Ros, TX, 1999