As a resident of Ardmore, Oklahoma, the Noble Research Institute has shaped my interest in science since early childhood. In that regard, my summer experience at the Noble Research Institute has been a bit different from that of the other research scholars. For many of them, long hours of travel by car and plane culminated in a visit to Oklahoma for their first time. For me, this internship brought me back home.
Growing up in the same town as the Noble Research Institute made a substantial impact on my interest in science. I remember my first elementary school field trips to the Noble Research Institute campus. The greenhouse fascinated me. While our guides described the facility's innovative cooling systems and automatic watering, I was mesmerized instead by seemingly endless rows of grasses and flowering plants on sliding tables. Our field trip concluded with a visit to see a special cow. This cow had a cannula, a surgically fitted tube-like device that allowed research of digestive processes in the cow's rumen, the first chamber of its stomach. We were given the opportunity to wear an arm-length glove and to touch forage grazed by the cow. I was so excited. As I put on my glove and touched the warm grasses from the cow's stomach, I remember thinking to myself, "Science is really cool."
In my later high school years, I visited the Noble Research Institute again for the "Science Carnival" program organized by Noble Academy. During this visit, I learned more about the Noble Research Institute's technology, the research being conducted and the efforts to implement sustainable agricultural methods. The day was very hands-on. We set up our own stations to create cold "bubbles" from dry ice, which we could hold while wearing gloves. The day also consisted of exploring a large floor lab, asking questions about different machines, observing colorful flame tests, and learning how to mix esters to make different pleasant-smelling smells. In the Kruse Auditorium, Elison Blancaflor, Ph.D., shared with us about his NASA-sponsored research that sent plants into space. The day was so much fun! I was a high school junior at the time, and college applications were around the corner. My decision to pursue a degree in biochemistry was largely influenced by these Noble Research Institute programs. I had heard about the Noble Summer Research Scholars Program before leaving for college, and I was planning to apply.
The transition from my days of observing at the Noble Research Institute to actually researching in its labs has been amazing. I have especially enjoyed building relationships with the other research scholars through this program. Every day has given us the opportunity to learn something new, challenge ourselves and contribute to research that makes us passionate. Greenhouse research manager David McSweeney shared with us a statement he overheard from a child touring the greenhouse: "It smells like science." I smile at this because I remember a childhood where the Noble Research Institute "smelled like science" for me. I feel privileged for the opportunity to conduct my own research here this summer. For me, the Noble Research Institute is an extension of the small town I have come to know and love as home.
Sarah Oliver is a 2016 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Plant Science from Ardmore, Oklahoma. She is majoring in biochemistry at Oklahoma State University. Her summer project involves phenotypic and molecular characterization of root system architecture mutants in Medicago truncatula.