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Meet Libby O'Brien '15: Pursuing her Academic Passions at Villanova

September 18, 2017
By Bethany Hanley

What are you studying at Villanova? What inspired you to pursue this course of study?

I am an environmental science, philosophy, and geography triple major. I am particularly interested in ecosystem ecology and political/women and gender studies philosophy. I knew I wanted to study environmental science and participate in undergraduate research after taking AP bio with Ms. Cicy Po and AP environmental science with Ms. Erika Rhile. These teachers fostered my academic interests and challenged me to engage with the science community. These women remain incredible mentors to me throughout my college experience.

I was a part of the Sebastian Rale Debating Sodality with Mr. Haskell throughout my four years at Cheverus. The debates, research process, and case writing inspired me to pursue philosophy at the undergraduate level. I am taking advantage of the liberal arts curriculum at Villanova; I am appreciative for Mr. Haskell and all of the debate team members.

Could you briefly describe your internship?

I spent the summer after my freshman year in Northern Alberta, Canada, close enough to the arctic circle that the sun never set. I was there as a research assistant for Dr. Melanie Vile and Dr. Kel Wieder. Drs. Vile and Wieder are bio-geochemists. Their research surrounds boreal peatland ecology and post-fire vegetation regeneration. While in Canada, my responsibilities included lots of field work, monitoring photosynthesis/respiration chambers, lab work analyzing carbon sequestration, and lots of organizing samples. This work inspired me to begin an independent project on underground nitrogen fixation. While in Canada, I collected samples and did a lot of lab work. I am currently waiting on an isotope analysis to come back from a different lab so I can begin manipulating the data and writing about my findings. This internship was an incredible opportunity for me to pursue research at a higher level. This past summer I accepted an offer for a summer undergraduate research grant with the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

How did your Cheverus education prepare you for your current experiences?

Cheverus prepared me for college in ways I am still seeing. Specifically, Cheverus taught me how to write. Being able to communicate in subjects like English, science, history, and philosophy has been a valuable tool for me at school. I have integrated the writing techniques I learned at Cheverus into every class I have taken. I should probably give all of the credit to Ms. Mahar, my English teacher for three years at Cheverus. I find myself constantly editing my papers -- how I remember her corrections. Cheverus also instilled in me great time management skills; but more importantly, I am thankful for Cheverus for my friendships that have lasted beyond high school.

What is the most rewarding/exciting aspects of your post-Cheverus experience?

I have had a very positive Cheverus and post-Cheverus experience. I am thankful for the relationships that I cultivated there, the academic guidance I received, and a lasting sense of community when I return home from break. I realize it has changed quite a bit in the last few years, but Cheverus remains a positive influence on my education and personal growth.

Elizabeth Sprague and Carla Rein says:
September 21, 2017 05:36 PM CST

We love you Libby!


kristine and Tom Biegel says:
September 25, 2017 03:45 PM CST

Libby, way to go! You are making the most out of everything you do, having wonderful adventures and making a difference in the world! Your parents must be very proud!!


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