Joy Pawirosetiko Biology major, Honors College, Class of 2014
Research Mentor: Dr. Sharon Pochron, Sustainability Studies
*Other team members on the project: Nawin Sahebzada (Biology major), Shamin Sahebzada (Biology major), & Amy Stofenberg
(Sustainability Studies program, '13).
Joy Pawirosetiko, an Honors College senior majoring in Biology, is one of many SB studentsdoing research related to the environment, and will be presenting at both the Earthstockresearch showcase on April 25 and URECA’s upcoming undergraduate research symposium on April 30!
Since January 2013, Joy has been working with Dr. Sharon Pochron of Sustainability
Studies, most recently on a project regarding "The Effects of Roundup & Fertilizer on Earthworms." The project involved setting up flats and counting worms, and was done with additional
support from the Life Sciences Greenhouse facility. “There was a lot of labor involved – with sifting the soil, and counting the worms.
That took hours upon hours!”Last year, Joy presented at poster at URECA on "TheEffects of Simulated Acid Rain on Earthworms." Currently she is writing up the results for a paper, and will also be presenting
a research talk at the Honors College senior symposium in May. As Joy will tell you,
studying earthworms was not something she had anticipated doing as an undergraduate
here at SB, but was an experience that proved to be worthwhile: “It seemed so daunting when I first started, but it’s definitely worth it! ... I’m
glad I did it.”
Joy has been involved in numerous campus activities and organizations, notably with
theCommuter Student Association (where she currently serves as President, and formerly served as Media Chair, and
Vice President); Undergraduate Student Government (where she has served as Senator since May 2013; and is also currently appointed
as President Pro Tempore); as a student representative for a Project 50 Forward committee on dining services; as a member of the Search Committees for the Dean of
the College of Arts and Sciences, and for the Administrative Director of the Undergraduate
Student Government. Following graduation in May, Joy plans to stay at Stony Brook
for another year to complete a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Healthcare Management. She is a first generation college student, who was born in Suriname, moved to the US in 2001 and graduated from Lindenhurst Senior HS. Joy's hobbies
include photography and badminton. Below are excerpts of her interview with Karen
Kernan, URECA Director.
Karen: Tell me about your research project. Joy: Essentially we’re trying to see the effects of RoundUp on the number of earthworms,
individualearthworm weight, and earthworm biomass. We’re also trying to see if fertilizer interacts
at all with RoundUp. For our experiment we had four different treatments: RoundUp
and fertilizer, RoundUp and no fertilizer, hand weeding and fertilizer, and the last
one, our control, hand weeding and no fertilizer. After letting the planted grass
grow for a month, we sprayed and hand weeded the respective flats (48), each containing
30 worms, for the first time. After ten days we sprayed and hand weeded the flats
a second time because some of the grass started to grow back. Eight days after treating
the flats we counted and weighed all of the worms. We did this for the second and
last time after 60 days. Counting and weighing the worms (over a thousand worms) took
so much work. We were in the greenhouse for so many hours!... But even though it was
so much work, and at times we felt like giving up, we got great results and found
that RoundUp did have an effect in the short-term and that fertilizer had a pretty
strong impact over the long-term.
How did you first find out about the opportunity to work with Dr. Pochron? I had taken a class on Conservation Genetics with Dr. Pochron last fall, when she
mentioned that she wanted students for an earthworm study. I then enrolled in a one-research
credit EHI 487 course in spring 2013, where I became involved in a project looking
at the effects of simulated acid rain on earthworm biomass. For that first project
where I was essentially getting my feet wet as far as research was concerned, Dr.
Pochron gave me the responsibility of figuring how to use a data logger which took
data points of temperature and humidity. I learned a lot about the software and I
also got into the literature review and wrote a few pieces here and there. It was
a great way to start research, and it helped me get exposed to presenting. Then I
followed up with a second research project – which took the entire summer, and which
I’m still working on for my honors thesis.
For the second project, it took weeks and weeks of figuring out the perfect setup!
We spent about two months running pilot studies. We had to figure out how to keep
the worms in the flats. …We ran into multiple issues –e.g. with using a hot glue gun;
then going with a wire mesh over the flats. While worms were still able to get out,
the mesh design was the best option considering this was an outdoor experiment. We
had to dig up the dirt behind the greenhouse for this experiment. We didn’t want to
have any contamination from fertilizer. There was a lot of labor involved – with sifting
the soil, and counting the worms. That took hours upon hours! There were a lot of
factors that we had to consider. We had a lot of help too from Mike and John down
at the Greenhouse who provided resources (e.g. flats and soil) for us. They were great.
What are the benefits of doing a senior thesis? One of the biggest things I took away from this was learning to deal with failure.
We were so frustrated at times. But Dr. Pochron kept saying, “Keep working at it;
you’ll get there.” Going through the process definitely helps you think outside the
box, to try and see the big picture, and figure out alternative solutions to the problems
that can come up in research. And as far as the writing process is concerned, it definitely makes you think differently.
You learn how to write in a clear, more straightforward way: (you realize you don’t’
need that extra verbiage.) You also get better in learning how to present. Last year
when I did URECA for the first time I was a little nervous. Now that I have a stronger
sense of the project, I’m looking forward to presenting. I may also present for the
BNL admitted students day, and Earthstock.
Tell me about your mentor. Dr. Pochron is a lecturer in Sustainability Studies and she’s definitely one of my
favorite professors on campus. I couldn’t have found a better mentor! Even though
she is busy, she would still help us count and take the time to guide us through the
research process. She’s so easy-going. She understands how difficult or how intimidating
the project may be. It took a while for me to get the methods section together and
to take apart the raw data but she helps you through it. One thing she stressed the
importance of doing is the literature review. Right now, I have in my bag 30-40 abstracts
that I have to review. She also stresses things like taking advantage of opportunities
outside the classroom. She really is a mentor for anyone who needs one. When you are
doing research, you create a relationship with your mentor and with the other people
on your team. And that’s been a great addition to my education here at Stony Brook.
Any advice for other students? Get involved. Stony Brook is a great university and it’s just getting better and better.
I met a lot of great people, people who are willing to help me move forward. I feel
confident that I’m going to be prepared for future graduate studies, or whatever comes
next. As far as the research and thesis go, it’s a lot of work- a lot of writing. And you
might see your writing come back with red ink but that’s ok. It’s trial and error!
– I only really started last year at this time. And looking back on how much I’ve
done over the past year, I can see how much I’ve learned. It seemed so daunting when
I first started, but it’s definitely worth it! It’s been a good ride and I’m glad
I did it. There are so many research opportunities here. It may seem intimidating at first to
go talk to professors. Or that you can’t do it but it’s really not something to be
What are your long term plans? I’m working on my MBA with a concentration in health care management. I hope to finish
that by next May, and find a lab technician job-something that allows for research.
I knew I wanted an experience before I graduated. Studying earthworms was not something
I anticipated doing, but it taught me a lot. And it was fun. I’m glad I got the experience
for the future.