Ecology, Evolution and Behavior junior Anna Nagel talks evolutionary theory, her high-flying hobby and how it felt to be named a Goldwater Scholar
What led you to choose Ecology, Evolution and Behavior as your major?
I started as a chemistry major and was thinking about double majoring in chemistry and EEB. I realized that I really didn't like chemistry labs so I switched to EEB with a chemistry minor. I was interested in ecology because I'd learned about ecology in Minnesota as a camper and counselor at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center.
Do you participate in any research on campus? What are your research interests?
I am doing research on campus with Emma Goldberg and Yaniv Brandvain. Broadly, I am interested in evolutionary theory. A lot of people don't know what that means. Basically, I use mathematical models to ask evolutionary questions. Models are simplifications so they are never right, but sometimes they are useful tools to understand biology. Right now, I'm working on a population genetics project on mate choice loosely inspired by Spadefoot toads.
Your Goldwater Bio mention that you are an aerialist and volunteer with Circus Juventas and Maroon Circus. Can you talk more about that?
I started taking aerial classes at Circus Juventas when I was in fifth grade and I continued taking classes through high school. I volunteered in high school and still do. UMN Maroon Circus is a small club that teaches circus acts. I really enjoyed practicing and being in the air. My favorite act was silks. Performing was fun, but it was more exciting to finally get a trick I'd been working on or to do a hard routine cleanly.
What do you hope to do after finishing your undergraduate degree?
I plan on pursuing a PhD in ecology and evolution with research in evolutionary theory.
How did it feel to be named the as a Goldwater Scholar?
My plan was to graduate a semester early if I wasn't awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, so my first response was essentially, "Now I know when I am graduating." I didn't look into how many people receive the scholarship or the "merit" of it before I applied. I just got an email about it and thought, "Sure, why not apply?" It wasn't until after I found out that I received the scholarship that I really realized being a Goldwater Scholar is somewhat of an accomplishment. I was actually a bit confused when the scholarship office asked for a picture to prepare a "press statement" before the announcements came out.