• Austin Grubb at a computer in the lab

August 24, 2017

Biology major Austin Grubb ’17 had an illuminating summer—literally.

Grubb, of Hanover, Pa., spent his summer at the Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography trying to determine how light affects diatoms.

“I’ve been interested in marine biology for a while,” he said. “As a kid, I would watch programs that said there is so much about the oceans we don’t know, and we can’t do much to protect our oceans if we don’t know anything about them.”

Grubb is particularly interested in how organisms in the ocean respond to their environment.

Diatoms are a single-celled group of algae present in all water environments and contribute substantially to oxygen production. Their ecological success is apparent by regular, sometimes excessive, blooms in all aquatic systems, but the reason behind their abundance is not fully understood.

Grubb tried to determine how light affects diatom structure, specifically the colony length, or the number of cells per colony, by conducting experiments using low- and high-light conditions.

The data he gathered was used by the Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography in the submission of a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funded Grubb’s internship through its Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program.

Grubb came across the internship after being directed to the NSF website by Susquehanna’s Career Development Center. He said it seemed like a natural progression after working at the university’s Freshwater Research Initiative and spending a semester in Costa Rica fulfilling his study-abroad requirement.

“Even though we obviously can’t study the ocean at Susquehanna, the Freshwater Research Initiative provided enough to overlap in terms of scientific technique,” Grubb said. An aquatic ecology course with Jack Holt, professor of biology, provided him with the perfect academic background.

Grubb said his internship confirmed his area of study and his future career path. He is studying oceanography in a graduate program at Rutgers University.

“I could see myself being a faculty member,” Grubb said, “or working for a government agency like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or the Environmental Protection Agency.”