When Logan Adams met Stephen Good at an Honors College faculty-student matching reception, it seemed like a perfect match. Logan, an HC ecological engineering and international studies student, who graduated in spring, 2019, was interested in working on water issues for his thesis, and Dr. Good is a hydrology expert in the School of Biological and Ecological Engineering.
After initial forays in less engaging and demanding projects, Logan approached Dr. Good about taking on something more complicated, using physical variables to develop a model that could predict drought severity.
“Steve said, ‘It’s going to be a lot of work; are your willing to do it?’” Logan recalls.
He embraced the challenge, immersing himself in research papers, teaching himself how to code in Python and building a foundation of knowledge in statistical analysis and fluid mechanics. But some of the key things he learned were about process, and the first step was embracing his own limitations.
“Going to my mentor, to this person I want to impress, and saying ‘I don’t know how to do this’ is scary,” says Logan. “But then I realized – a mentor’s role is to help me grow. When I first met Steve, it was scary – he’s a really smart person and can ask great questions that can let you know your premise isn’t working. But talking with him more on a human level, working in the lab together, I understand how he got there, the steps, the fifteen years of experience he has.
“I’d come to meetings and say, ‘I couldn’t get this to work,’ and I was afraid he would be disappointed, but he’d always say, ‘Let’s go fix it.’ He was always positive.”
Another key element of the process for Logan was learning how to make sure he remained motivated an on track.
“This thesis ended up being largely coding and statistical analysis. You’re going to have ebbs and flows of passion. Sometimes you want to spend eight hours a day working, and sometimes you don’t want to think about it. You still have to meet deadlines and have to maintain that work ethic for months or years at a time. The project showed me how to do that. In the minutiae, I might think, ‘I don’t care about the rate of this factor,’ but then I could step back and realize, ‘I do care about the impact of drought on human society,’ so I keep going.”
A schedule of weekly check-ins provided some additional motivation.
“I needed contact with Steve, or I’d go weeks without turning in anything. It’s been valuable for the future. When I’ve talked with prospective employers, I’ve asked, ‘What are the mentorship opportunities in your company?’ or ‘How comfortable are you with people asking questions?’”
Dr. Good’s mentorship extended beyond the research. “Steve would check in on research but also on me,” Logan says. Conversations with Dr. Good helped him realize that he needed to take a break before move on to graduate school. Now, he plans to take some time to travel and get a job while deciding on his next steps.
“One of the nice things about the thesis process is you have to ask yourself hard questions that people usually don’t ask until later in college or even after: What do I really want to work on, commit time to? What am I passionate enough about to keep doing?”
In Logan’s time in the Honors College, he found one passion in being a part of the Honors College community. He has served as a student ambassador, talking about the HC with incoming students, for four years and a student development assistant, talking about the HC with alumni and donors, for three years. He also was previously a member of the residential staff in the Honors College Living and Learning Community.
“Being a part of the Honors College community has been very instrumental. You form connections and relationships, especially in the first couple of years, and as you go on and gain friends in your academic major, you still maintain friendships with people of all majors, which gives you a good perspective. I can hang out with people who are not just in engineering and who have the same drive in classes and in life.”
International opportunities have given him further perspective and helped provide additional context for the potential impact of his education. Logan spent one summer working at a nonprofit in Guatemala and joined the Honors College spring break service trip to Nepal. “OSU does a great job of promoting global work and education – but actually going and living abroad somewhere and seeing a completely different part of the world is so eye opening.”
But, in the end, few experiences have been as valuable as the thesis and the mentorship relationship he developed during the thesis process. “This thesis isn’t what I thought I would do. I thought maybe I’d do a ‘cool’ thesis outside of my major, or as an engineer, would build something,” Logan recalls. “This thesis has been coding and statistical analysis. But I’m proud of the effort I put in, and it’s taught me important skills and life experiences. This is what people do – make compromises and ask ‘What am I able to do in the time allotted?’ I’ve learned for the future – when you have an idea in your head, you have to really work for it to come into fruition.”
By Kristi Quillen: Graduate Teaching Assistant, Honors College