Brenna Bourque, Environmental Science Major

Fall 2020 CALS Outstanding Senior

"Brenna's intelligence, tenacity, and reliability formed the foundation for cutting-edge research on culturing fastidious SAR11 bacteria that about 50 people on Earth have ever worked with in the laboratory. And this research ultimately led to her first co-authorship on a published manuscript."  

- Paul Carini, nominator 


Tell us a little about yourself.

I wanted to go into a major that could expose me into research that is contributing to finding creative solutions to the complex environmental issues our society is facing today.

What have you enjoyed most about your major?

So far my favorite memory has been all of the labs for the classes. I really enjoy getting my hands dirty and getting out into the field.

My favorite class was the soil and water chemistry class (even though half of it ended up being online) with Dr. Katerina Dontsova simply because I really enjoyed learning about the content and I understood everything.


Any clubs or leadership positions you enjoyed?

I had a lot of fun as a preceptor for the Soils Lab taught by Dr. Rivka Fidel, supporting the class. Especially going on field trips!

Any scientific research you did?

I was in Dr. Paul Carini’s Environmental Microbiology lab for over a year and a half. I utilized advanced cultivation techniques to culture both aqueous and terrestrial bacterial colonies that related to different environmental issues.

Biggest challenge of being a college student during the pandemic?

It was difficult having to take all of my classes online, not being able to be hands on in the lab, and missing out on field trips.

Next steps?

I have been applying to graduate programs for the Fall 2021 semester, and before that I plan on trying to get either an internship or temporary job.

Words of advice?

Go to office hours, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Take classes that will challenge you because they will be the most memorable and you will learn the most. Try to get into a research lab or internship that will give you some hands on experience, because a lot of the time that is more valuable than just taking classes.