Felix LatimerFélix Latimer is a Junior and majors in environmental and conservation biology with a concentration in environmental policy and management. During his time in the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program, he worked alongside Dr. Andrea Case, Ph.D., and Dr. Christopher L. Blackwood, Ph.D., studying geographical data about subspecies of lobelia across the United States. Félix is hoping to use this experiment as a reference for how research is conducted on the ground for a future career as a policy analyst on environmental issues in the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


Félix studied data on lobelia in various regions of the United States and compared it to the findings from digitized herbariums. The focus of the ongoing project is to collect new data on lobelias and examine how different subspecies coexist. Félix’s role was to check for discrepancies in preexisting data. Félix went county-by-county reviewing available data on the lobelia and created spreadsheets to explain where data was lacking about current lobelia growth trends, or to help correct misidentifications of what species of lobelia was growing in the area. Félix helped to organize data on twenty-three different species of lobelia.


Félix also contributed to the herbarium of Kent State by picking and cataloging different samples of lobelia for use as vouchers, or preserved samples of organisms. His field research assisted the program in studying lobelias at certain points through their seasonal life cycles, contributing to a better understanding of how their development was impacted by their environment.


Going forward, Félix is looking to apply his knowledge of hands-on research to pursue a career as a policy analyst for the EPA. Although he is looking to become more involved in public relations and policymaking than research, he feels this experience is essential for his future career.


He said, “Getting to see how our instructors interacted with other people who did not know about our topic or about research in general was helpful. At different times we would be outside, and people would ask what we were doing, what we were collecting, where we were from, and then our instructors would explain it in an interesting way.” While policy analysis does not immediately use methods of research Félix studied in the SURE program, he said, “I wanted to have this experience to know where the research comes from for my future job.”


As a part of the program, Félix was able to see how researchers communicated their findings and methods to non-researchers. While gathering samples of lobelia in the wild, Félix and his faculty mentors would often explain what they were doing and the basic premise of their research to local officials and curious observers. Félix said it was helpful to see these interactions faculty members would have; “They have to explain our research to different kinds of people, not just scientists or environmentalists, in a way that was informative, but also moving.”


Félix was also able to learn about using research tools and gained a greater understanding about his field of study by discussing it with his faculty mentors. As he explained, "I think it would have been beneficial for me to take some of the classes that explain concepts of this study beforehand, but I think the wonderful thing about the professors is that they will explain anything. It did not feel like it was a burden for them to explain concepts we would learn in other classes, and they also gave great suggestions for courses I could take in the future or programs to learn about environmental research.”


When asked if he had any advice for students entering research, Félix had this to say: “In general, for any scientific research, talk to professors and read their papers. Every professor has their own website with their own publications and projects. It is an easy way of finding interesting professors. Any kind of research is good to have an experience in, even if you are not going to actively do it in your career. Research in general has similarities between disciplines.”


Felix has been featured on The Research Review podcast. His episode is titled “Environmental Policy and Lobelia Plant Research.”

Written by: Evan Garrett