Work study for the love of the Biology Department


By Song My Hoang

What happens to the dirty glassware once you’ve finished with a Biology lab?  Well, something has to be done with it.

The work-study group employed by Life Specialists, Amy Kelley and Peg Angie, in the Biology Department are the ones who are responsible for completing these tasks.

The team consists of Son Nguyen ‘14, Ashley Barnes ‘14, Kailee Cummings ‘15 and me.

I started working for the Biology Department when I was just a first-year student.  My initial mindset towards employ- ment was that it was an opportunity for me to earn extra money to support my tuition bills; however, it has come to be so much more than that.

It is often the most unexpected things in life that bring us joy. Over time, I have developed a new perception about my job.  My work-study provides professional growth as well as an extended home away from home — which is very important for an international student like me.  My job genuinely brings happiness to my daily life at Union.

When the other work-study students and I come to work, we have to complete a set of tasks that are written on the board. My favorite part of the job is taking care of the animals. On a daily basis we have to feed Stella the tortoise, the fish that live in a big sea tank, three lizards upstairs and smaller lizards located in the basement.

I’m frequently amused by each animal’s unique character. Many of you may know Stella, the Biology Department’s pet.  He’s rather active and likes to walk multiple laps around the lab. Stella will always find a way to make a mess just as I end my work shift. Though we love Stella, my work-study companions and I can all agree that we do not want to own a tortoise in the future!  Stella’s cute, but not worth the effort!

Lizzie, one of the upstairs lizards, is quite a diva because she has to be specially hand-fed worms. The two other lizards are more food-oriented and are always ecstatically jumping in the presence of food. I’ve grown fond of these two lizards because I’m usually the one who feeds them.

However, not all of our tasks are fun and entertaining. Occasionally, we will have to clean the big sea tank. We have to vacuum all the water out of the tank and replace it with new salt water. To do so, we have to carry at least ten buckets of water to fill the tank. It’s a tiresome job, but at least we get an arm work out.  We also get the satisfaction of seeing a clean home for our little fish.

The most tedious task is undoubtedly washing the seemingly infinite number of test tubes that come from the introductory Biology and Microbiology labs.

I have to admit, sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the amount of glassware that piles up.

At the end of the day, I am always delighted to erase the tasks on the board to indicate that we’ve completed them. It’s an achievement that marks our productive and hardworking effort.

Occasionally, one of us will have a careless moment and make a mistake that has serious consequences. My work-study buddies and I have an ongoing joke about how we have managed to make a mistake in all four classical elements.

Water: We flooded the sea tank. Ice: We froze a $100 gel. Fire: We accidently placed a container of Planaria in an incubator, instead of the fridge, which overheated them. Earth: I admit that I nearly starved one of my lizards to death because I failed to notice that one of them was eating all the food. Sorry, lizard.

Everybody makes mistakes, but what is important is to  never make that same mistake again. I have learned this invaluable lesson through personal experience at my work-study.

The most precious aspects of my job are the close relationships that I have developed with my work-study colleagues and my two bosses. All of our eccentricities combine to produce a vivacious working environment.

I consider everyone at my work-study to be a part of my family. I do not view my job as an obligation; I perceive it as opportunity for me to build meaningful experiences.

Work-study doesn’t necessarily have to be boring. It is what you make of it. I hope that the warmth that exudes from my work-study is shared amongst other work-study positions on campus. And if it isn’t, try to find one that does.

Loving what you do makes each day worth it!


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