Natalie Lewis, an Environmental Sciences (ENV) major and Marine Medicine Scholar, recently shared insights into why she chose to major in ENV, what she has learned, her favorite experience and advice for students considering the major or the Scholars in Marine Medicine program.

Why did you choose to major in ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES?

"I grew up hiking and camping with my family, and so have loved the outdoors for as long as I can remember. At the beginning of high school, I became more in touch with current events surrounding the climate crisis and learned just how essential it was for society to recognize the faults in our culture of excess consumerism. I arrived to Duke's campus set on pursuing a major in Environmental Sciences because I couldn't keep hiking and enjoying the outdoors without at least trying my best to have a positive impact in the field of environmental studies."

What have you learned from the ENV major and its courses?

"After a few years in the field, I have learned that there are so many facets of environmental science. When I first came to college, I didn't anticipate the vast array of specialties within the broad category of environmental studies—marine science, environmental policy, conservation, ecology, toxicology, and the list goes on. And each one is essential."

What's been your favorite experience as an ENV major?

"I spent the fall semester of my junior year at the Duke Marine Lab, and I cannot imagine what my college experience would have been like without this experience. Classes at the Marine Lab are very field-based and hands-on, and with such a small undergraduate community, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with independent research. I spent my days snorkeling around nearby islands looking for sea urchins and marine worms, joining a shark tagging expedition, and exploring a nearby swamp to catch fiddler crabs for my final class project. I will never forget the two nights I spent on Duke's research vessel scouring the waves for dolphins, whales and sea turtles, and I am unendingly grateful for the friends that I made while there."

What advice would you give a student considering majoring in ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES?

"I would say two things: first, study at the Marine Lab. I cannot recommend this enough. Second, don't be afraid to email a professor out of the blue and ask if there is any way you could help out with research. The Nicholas School professors are incredible, and a lot of their research has field-based components. If you are looking to apply the knowledge you are learning in class, helping with lab or fieldwork is, in my opinion, the best way to do this."

Describe your experience with the Scholars in Marine Medicine Program

"I have loved the Scholars in Marine Medicine program and have been so grateful for the experience. The marine science community at Duke is very tight-knit and the professors and advisors within the program are always more than willing to meet and provide support. For my thesis, I am researching the effects of the chemical PFOA on liver cells. Although I was nervous to begin independent research when I had rarely before set foot in an actual biology lab, my faculty advisors' emphasis on figuring things out for myself and learning from my mistakes has been an essential lesson in building confidence and initiative."