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From her first glimpse at campus, recent biology grad Jackie Behrens, of Menomonee Falls, knew the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh was the school for her

“UWO was an ideal location for me. When I toured, I met Dr. Misty McPhee who shared all the amazing wildlife research she did here,” Behrens said.

Fast forward through her undergraduate education and three years working at the Environmental Research and Innovation Center, it turns out UWO also is the perfect place for Behrens to start her professional career as a Titans X2 alumni-employee.

“My freshmen year I was looking for an on-campus job and was hoping to find something biology-related. I started working as an office student at the ERIC lab in 2020 and transitioned to many different roles throughout my time here,” she said. “I have learned so much. Starting as an office student I learned how to communicate well water results with customers and what it means to have contaminates in your water. Then I transitioned into the lab to see how the samples were analyzed, which allowed me to grow my laboratory skills. Throughout my time at the ERIC lab, my confidence in myself has grown.”

ERIC lab manager Hannah Buhrow said Behrens has learned much during her years at the lab.

“Jackie has grown and developed into a fantastic researcher and lab role model. She has now accepted a full-time position as a lab manager here. She will be able to use all of the knowledge gained over the past three years to excel in her role,” Buhrow said.

Behrens also built her skills by presenting research at the 2023 Celebration of Scholarship about microplastics in storm water on the UWO campus. She had collected samples by placing a glass jar attached to the end of a sampling pole down the storm water drains. The samples were then taken back to the lab and analyzed for  density separation, filtration and quantification via a dissecting microscope. She found that microplastics are prevalent in UWO’s storm water drains and a portion of the microplastics are being introduced into the Fox River.

Following midyear graduation last month, Behrens decided to accept a professional position at the lab that allows her to continue to grow and learn.

“At the ERIC lab, they are always trying new techniques and equipment, which will continue to provide multiple learning opportunities for me. Also, the people who work at the lab have really made a difference in my life, pushing me to be confident in what I have learned,” she said.

In her lab manager role, Behrens will lead the Vilas TNC Well and Clean Boats, Clean Waters programs and assist in managing students who work at the lab throughout the school year and summer.

“I am happy that I am staying at UWO for my first professional career. I could not imagine what my undergraduate career would have been like without the ERIC lab, and I hope that I can help other students experience that as well,” she said.

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