Friday, June 13, 2014

Smithsonian Natural History Museum (NMNH)

My name is Addie Rodger and I am an Illustration with a Biology minor. Over my winter and spring semester of my senior year at MICA, I interned and eventually was given freelance projects at the Natural History Museum (NMNH). I regularly check the Smithsonian website to see what upcoming exhibits they have, which is how I found out about this opportunity. Having gotten into natural science illustration over the past couple of years, Iʼm always on the lookout for opportunities, mostly within museums, where I can express that. After doing some digging and sending out about a million emails, I was finally contacted by Matt Buffington, a research scientist in the Entomology Lab at NMNH. He called me in for an interview, and I got to meet most of the staff and tour the different floors of this department. The National Insect Collection is among the largest in the world, so most of their job centers around the research of the nature, inter-relationships, origin, and evolution of the insects. Some scientists in this department focus mainly on specimens that have an agricultural impact on our world.

I didnʼt necessarily have just one direct supervisor, I had many. Matt Buffington was only one of many research scientists that I worked with. Among others were Conrad Labandeira, Dale Greenwalt, David Adamski, and Alex Konstantinov, all of which were extremely helpful and informative figures throughout my internship. Both Conrad Labdndeira and Alex Konstantinov were two figures that practiced artistic techniques along with their research, mainly through drawings.

My responsibilities began with insect fossil drawings, which was probably the most challenging. Most of the specimens I worked with were on an extremely small scale, so there was very extensive microscope use. I later moved on to tracings of drawings done by Conrad Labandeira of insect/plant parasitic reactions. This task was more or less busy work, but still enjoyed the subject matter and getting to express my attention to detail. Finally, I worked with Alex Konstantinov doing beetle drawings of various species from India. This was the longest and most intensive task, but extremely rewarding. At the end, I was most proud of the work I had done overall, especially when I was asked to do a freelance project for Dr. Adamski.

The most important thing I have learned from this experience is to always keep making connections and keeping in touch with those around you. Itʼs very important to always meet new people because you never know how they will impact your life down the road. This internship helped clarify my career goals by making me positive that I want to practice natural science illustration with a good team of researchers who are always focusing on something new.

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