Caroline Hewitt Nickerson, a University Scholar, graduated in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Literature and Language (Chinese) and Bachelor of Arts in History. At UF she was able to work with the Bob Graham Center for Public Service, the UF History Department, the UF Psychiatry Department, and the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity. She is also a Master of Public Policy graduate from American University with a focus on environmental and climate change policy. While at American University, she was a William K. Reilly Environmental Policy Scholar and the 2019 Cherry Blossom Princess representing the state of Florida.
Caroline currently works in Indian Harbour Beach, FL with an organization called SciStarter. SciStarter is a globally acclaimed, online citizen science hub where more than 3,000 projects, events, and tools — searchable by location, topic, age level, and more — have been registered by individual project leaders or imported through partnerships with federal governments, NGOs, and universities. As a research affiliate of NCSU and ASU, and as a popular citizen science portal, SciStarter hosts an active community of close to 100,000 registered citizen scientists and millions of additional site visitors. Citizen science allows people to turn their curiosity about different issues — like astronomy, the environment, and health — into real-world impact! She is currently a Program Manager at SciStarter, where she manages the Citizen Science Month Program, SciStarter’s Corporate Volunteer Programs, and other programmatic and outreach efforts, including working with SciStarter’s Syndicated Blog Network, which encompasses the Science Connected, Discover Magazine, and SciStarter platforms. She also works with UF-VA UNESCO Bioethics Unit (as executive assistant), the Christensen Project at the UF Psychiatry Department (as a coordinator), the DC Gator Club (as VP of Academics), Florida Community Innovation (as a co-founder; check out https://FloridaResourceMap.org!), and the Commission on Local Debates (as a co-founder; check out the debates they’ve run for Orange County, FL local elections this year at https://Facebook.com/LocalDebates).
Why did you get started in undergraduate research? I got involved in research because I was curious about history, policy, and public service! I loved being a Graham Civic Scholar with the Bob Graham Center for Public Service, and am so grateful to the entire team there: Dr. Sheila Dickison, Sherry Feagle, Dr. Kevin Baron, Dr. David Colburn, Shelby Taylor, Dr. Emma Humphries, and my amazing fellow students! When I wrote the cumulative report for the Civic Scholars program, I was able to delve into mental health services in all of Florida’s counties, and as a Bob Graham Center Reubin Askew Scholar and University Scholar with CUR, I had the privilege of working with the University of Florida history department (specifically, with the great Dr. Sheryl Kroen) to travel to National Archives in London and do a deep dive into post-WWII information campaigns and analyze how the British government justified rebuilding Germany, its erstwhile enemy, in the aftermath of the war. Fascinating! The support I received from CUR was foundational for this research. I also, as an East Asian Languages and Literatures Major, had the privilege of learning from amazing scholars like Dr. Ann Wehmeyer, an inspirational scholar of Japanese folklore. In and out of the classroom, I learned so much from UF!
How has your research experience shaped your career? I can’t emphasize enough what an amazing mentor Dr. Donnelly is. She truly cares about students as people, and her willingness to give students a chance and infectious enthusiasm make Gators into scholars and starts them on a path of lifelong learning. It did for me! She fosters a truly collaborative environment of academic leaders.
What advice would you give someone interested in undergraduate research? Don’t be afraid to try new things! And be disciplined. A big task is less intimidating when you break it up into a bunch of little tasks that you can do everyday. And it’s never too late to start something. As Confucius once said, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is today.” Or as I often say: start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. I can sometimes get too in my own head and be nervous to start something. Then, I’m worried that it’s too late. It’s never too late! Just do it! 🙂