By Jianni Labato, Environmental Sciences & Global Studies Major at Arizona State University
I am a senior at Arizona State University double majoring in environmental sciences and global studies. I am passionate about the intersections of climate change, human health, and vulnerable populations. My passions have led me to pursue different research positions, internships, as well as clubs and organizations. However, at the start of my collegiate career, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my major or how I could be successful within my field.
As an eager first-year student, I emailed numerous professors studying environmental sciences to see if they had space for me to join their research lab. Almost every e-mail returned stated that they did not have space or were not looking for another research assistant, except for one. My first research experience focused on wetland ecology which gave me a good understanding of the ins-and-outs of research. Although it didn’t align with my passion at the time, I learned valuable lessons from working within academia and met other professors and university staff that focused on different subsections of environmental sciences.
Through that experience, I was connected with a career specialist who informed me about environmental science internships. I applied as an intern to work at Environment America where I had the opportunity to talk to government officials about solar power and why we need to push for renewable energy. As I completed the semester-long internship, I started to realize that working on environmental solutions can stem from a variety of different places such as academia, non-profits, or government agencies. This internship led me to add global studies as a concurrent degree as I wanted to understand how problems and solutions cross national boundaries and affect social, cultural, and economic boundaries. As I gained more knowledge within the intersections of environmental sciences and global studies, I noticed that community and global health were a field that overlapped with my studies. My interest led me to my current position as a research assistant, focusing on children’s health and air pollution in South Phoenix, Arizona.
Looking back on the past four years, I would have never imagined that I would be focusing on environmental health sciences or that I wanted to pursue a master’s degree within that field. College is about finding your passion, and the only way you can do that is if you fail and try again. Looking back to when I found myself emailing professors asking for a spot in their lab, it was hard taking rejection letters. However, it only takes one person to say 'yes' and give you that opportunity. If I never took the initiative and emailed professors, I would have never found that research position, or met that career specialist, or had that internship that eventually led me to my current field of environmental health sciences. Not knowing what you want to do with your major is okay; take that opportunity, get involved, learn from your mistakes, and your passions will lead you to success.