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Preparing passionate leaders driving change in sustainability and stewardship of the environment.

  —Our Mission

Reveling in Research: Students Researchers Might Discover What Inspires Them

Chloe Tyler, third-year, environmental earth and soil sciences major

Kylee Neilsen and Cody Cameron performing research in lemon orchard


Students in Cal Poly’s Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department enjoy the many benefits of the university’s Learn by Doing philosophy, thanks to the department’s wealth of research opportunities that give students a chance to put into practice what they’ve learned in class.

This rings especially true for second-year environmental engineering student Kylee Nielsen, who works as a research assistant for Assistant Professor Yamina Pressler. While taking Pressler’s Introduction to Earth Sciences class, Nielsen expressed interest in getting involved in a research project.

Environmental Earth and Soil Science students,
Kylee Nielsen and Cody Cameron, working with
Assistant Professor, Yamina Pressler, present their
research at the CAFES Spring Research Symposium, 2022.
Photo credit: Norah Bales

Pressler’s current research project involves the lemon orchard on campus and focuses on understanding how soil management strategies such as cover cropping influences soil biodiversity and overall soil health.

Students assisting in research get the opportunities to work in the field, pique their curiosity, build relationships with faculty and other students and start thinking like scientists. One of Nielsen’s favorite parts of working on the project is the dynamic created with Pressler and the other research assistants. “We have created a really good dynamic in the lab,” Nielsen said. “Everyone is talking about the research; everyone is helping each other and learning from each other. It’s a positive work environment.”

Students who perform hands-on work and help with research have a leg up in determining what they want to base their career on and in discovering what might inspire them for further study.

As a research assistant, Neilsen takes soil samples from the lemon orchard to the lab, then counts the nematodes — microorganisms within the soil — and records the data. “This research project and this position has really cemented my love for my major and has gotten me interested in what I want to study later in my career after college” Nielsen said.


Read more stories in the Summer 2022 Newsletter

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