Shailja Gangrade reflects on time at UD as she prepares for graduate school
When University of Delaware student Shailja Gangrade was in high school, the native Delawarean participated in the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment’s (CEOE) Taking an Interest in Delaware’s Estuary (TIDE) summer camp which gave her an opportunity to meet faculty members in the college and get a preview of what life would be like as an undergraduate student at UD.
Now set for graduation, Gangrade, who is an Honors Program and Distinguished Scholars Program student, said that the early exposure to UD helped her decide to enroll in the University.
“Participating in TIDE Camp was a good opportunity for me to meet faculty and get a preview of the school,” said Gangrade. “Once I met people in the college and toured the school and decided to come, from that moment, the small college feel and the personality of the faculty enhanced my whole college experience in terms of academics.”
Gangrade has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship and will begin life as a doctoral student in the fall at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which is part of the University of California, San Diego.
At UD, Gangrade double majored in Marine Science and Environmental Engineering and said that even though she went to school in the state where she grew up, she was still able to have a global University experience.
“I’ve been on two study abroad programs. I’ve travelled every summer, and so I’ve taken the opportunities to get out of Delaware,” said Gangrade. “But it’s also nice to come back and have that small town feel that I’ve grown up with on campus. I really have gotten the best of both worlds by being a student here but also using opportunities to really travel.”
As an undergraduate, Gangrade participated in undergraduate research with Holly Michael, associate professor in the Department of Geological Sciences and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, doing sampling work in a tidal salt marsh near Dover and had the opportunity to work with Art Trembanis, associate professor in CEOE, on a scallop project.
She was also able to do work with Scripps during two summers.
The first summer, Gangrade was at sea as a research volunteer doing field sampling, specifically plankton collection and preservation.
The next summer, she was able to participate in a research experience for undergraduates (REU) opportunity with Scripps where she worked with Lisa Levin, a distinguished professor of marine ecology at Scripps, on an independent project researching the impact of low oxygen on vision in marine larval invertebrates and their habitats in the Southern California Bight. The “bight,” refers to the section of coastline from Point Conception in the north to just past San Diego in the south.
Those opportunities allowed her to learn more about Scripps and she is looking forward to working in an interdisciplinary environment at the institute.
“I’m really excited to be a part of that community,” said Gangrade. “It’s such an atmosphere where everyone collaborates. Whether it’s physical, biological or chemical, the collaboration that’s possible and the way that people look at complex problems concerning the ocean is so fascinating because everyone has different perspectives.”
This interdisciplinary research is important to Gangrade who said that she wanted to do a double major at UD so she could get experience looking at physical and biological interactions of oceanography.
“The physical part has definitely been honed by my engineering course work, which has been nice,” said Gangrade.
She said that her advisers, Trembanis and Joanna York, assistant professor in the School of Marine Science and Policy, have been very supportive and flexible with her schedule and that the faculty in the College of Engineering and CEOE have helped her along her journey at UD.
“The faculty have been so supportive. They know me by name and they have been great mentors to me. I think they really are the highlight of the college for me,” said Gangrade.
She also stressed that getting out of her comfort zone has made her undergraduate experience at UD that much more rewarding as she has tried to participate in clubs and opportunities that she might not otherwise have been exposed to.
Drawing on her love of the water, Gangrade joined the sailing team, something she never envisioned herself doing as she had never been on a sailboat before coming to UD. She also took advantage of the UD Alternative Breaks service opportunities and the aforementioned study abroad programs.
Gangrade said that getting out of her comfort zone is something that allows her to grow and thrive.
“It allows you to experience other things. Once you’re in that mode, you can start to explore and find what you really like and what you really value and some of the relationships you make along the way are great,” said Gangrade. “You can find your successful path by putting yourself in situations you wouldn’t expect and you wouldn’t know about. That’s been a big part of my UD experience.”