While the first week was primarily reading papers to obtain a firm understanding of research that has already been done on this topic, the second week after my meeting with the principle investigator, the professor I am working with, primarily has focused on writing a paper summarizing current findings and where there is room for future research, i.e. what I can try to find data for. During our meeting, we discussed what I have learned this far, possible research topics, and what measurements to use and what data to search for, which are my primary goals for this upcoming week. My PI and I have set up a weekly meeting time to ensure that I am on the right track and to answer any questions I may have. After I find valid existing data, I am hoping to use it to find a relationship between certification and community benefits such as healthcare, sustainable farming practices, and water accessibility.
In the beginning of this experience, I’ll be very honest in saying that I thought I would run into difficulties given I have never done economic research and that this opportunity is very independent (even though we have weekly meetings, I work primarily on my own). In the past, while I’ve enjoyed my independence and have enjoyed having a great amount of responsibility in my jobs, I have really liked working with other people, which is very different from this. Another concern I had was that in the past, reading hasn’t been my favorite thing to do, and therefore that I wouldn’t enjoy reading journal publications all day, every day. However, I’ve been enjoying reading, because it’s about fair trade. I’m reading about a topic that has greatly affected and improved living and working conditions for people around the globe and it brings me satisfaction knowing that fair trade research can help those in need, even if my particular project doesn’t have a heavy impact.
The weather here is something to get used to. It hasn’t rained and has barely even gotten cloudy since I’ve arrived. On Friday, it reached a whopping 109 degrees! As a Yooper, I have never experienced this type of heat but at least it was only 25% humidity. Today there is a high of 92 degrees which is still very warm, but it feels cool compared to Friday for sure. I have been going to the beach and exploring the area around Irvine on weekends and evenings with some people I know in the area. Last weekend, we went to Santa Monica, played volleyball, and I worked on overcoming my fear of the ocean. In addition to research accomplishments, this is one of my goals for this summer. Irvine is in the middle of a lot of beautiful places: it’s almost directly in the middle of LA and San Diego, I can see mountains from my window, and can be at the ocean in 10 minutes. In fact, for the fourth of July, I watched about 10 different firework shows standing at the top of a hill, and on some nights I can even see Disneyland’s fireworks from my window. Michigan has more forests and I miss the trees, but I cannot get over the beauty of the mountains.
Overall, I’m looking forward to making more progress on my research and to feel more comfortable with the new techniques and methods, and am also looking forward to experiencing the local area more.