Who? Ruud Steenbeek, MSc student of Earth and Environment.
What? Research for his Master’s thesis at Baylor University
Where? Waco, Texas, USA
‘I ended up in Texas through a teacher who does research on stress in ecosystems due to chemicals. In had asked him about possible thesis placements outside Europe where I could do laboratory work as well. He put me in touch with this lab, where they were enthusiastic right away. And after a couple of Skype conversations, I knew I wanted to go in that direction. My supervisor here is the most driven researcher ever. He really lives for his papers.
Piece of the puzzle
I am looking at a particular species of alga that is moving further and further inland due to the salinization of the rivers. This alga gives of toxins that kill fish, so it’s problematic for fisheries. We already know that salt has an influence, but we don’t know if the nutrient balance in the water plays a role as well. I am looking specifically at the influence of the proportion of nitrogen to phosphorus. They’ve been studying this alga for 30 years; there are very many factors involved. I hope to solve a little piece of the puzzle.
I only live ten minutes from the university, but Americans think it’s weird that I walk to work. They think it’s strange to walk more than five minutes to get somewhere: everyone here goes everywhere by car. Personally, I don’t feel I need a car, since there are plenty of bars and typical American eateries on campus.
I went to an American football match last week. Compared with a Dutch football match, it’s a lot of entertainment and just a little bit of football. I also have plans to travel. My parents are coming over and then we are going to Houston. Mid-October I’m going to do field work in Utah, near Salt Lake City, and we’ll go through the Rocky Mountains, which is really cool.
I’ve got a month to travel around after I finish. Then I want to go to Nashville and New Orleans – the country, blues and jazz cities. I reckon that will be really cool. I’m not a great fan of those genres, but I like music a lot, including blues and jazz occasionally. But mostly I’m interested in seeing what it’s like there. Some friends from Boxtel are coming over and I’ll do a two-week road trip with them in a van. So I’ve got enough to do while I’m here.’