How do we science? / Scientists in Action!

Bon Voyage, Serena!

As you likely know from yesterday’s post “Life After Graduate School,” Serena Hackerott graduated with her MS last semester, to the mingled horror and happiness of the UNdertheC blog team. Serena’s contributions to the blog cannot be overstated, as our corner of the internet might never have existed without her. Serena and Justin co-founded the blog in the first place, and Serena went on to come up with the name, attract at least one-third of our traffic, and publicize us via social media and at conferences. (Check out an infographic of the amazing impact Serena’s posts have had on the internet at the end of this post!) She’s known for insightful articles that have challenged misconceptions about lionfish and touted the value of marine conservation. By dreaming big and following through, Serena has helped UNdertheC become a more sophisticated blog in both style and content, taking us from a simple WordPress to a little e-community of marine science. We’re not the only ones who have noticed Serena’s gumption: CIEE Bonaire has hired her as a Coral Reef Ecology Intern, beginning the end of January. Serena will continue to blog for UNdertheC occasionally, and you can also follow along with her personal blog. We will miss our good friend tremendously, but are thrilled that Serena is charting course for a new adventure, especially one that will involve tropical sunsets (for Instagram, of course) and hopefully a few good lionfish showdowns.

Serena, then and now. Some things never change!

Serena, then and now. Some things never change!

To send Serena off in style, we’ve put together a short timeline of her grad school experience. Given all that she’s accomplished in one and a half years, Bonaire had better get ready!

August 2013– Serena formally begins graduate school as an MS student in Dr. John Bruno’s lab at UNC-Chapel Hill. As an undergrad at Carolina, Serena had already gotten a jump start on her MS work as a researcher in the Bruno lab. Before she even began grad school, Serena’s lionfish research had been published in PLoS ONE, landing her an interview with the BBC (and their delightful accents) and an article in Science Daily. Her scientific work in the Caribbean also predates her CIEE job: Serena participated in the Bruno lab’s field research in Belize and the Bahamas during college.

Serena lionfish

It’s best not to get on Serena’s bad side.

October 2013- Serena presents her research at the UNC Marine Sciences Student Symposium.  The rest of the new grad students panic as we wonder whether we’re supposed to have our data halfway analyzed after 1 month in grad school.  After seeing a symposium presentation about the value of science outreach, Serena and Justin conspire to start UNdertheC.

January 2014- Serena begins a challenging biostats course that will advance her already strong proficiency with R.  For anyone blessed enough to have avoided R, a semester with this stats package is about as much fun as teaching an octopus to tap dance. Unless, of course, you’re Serena, who happens to be an R guru and masters the course with flying colors. She also enrolls in a science communications class with Kelsey and Justin to continue her formal training in this field.

February 2014- In her most miserable episode of grad school, Serena travels to Honolulu, Hawai’i, to attend the 2014 ASLO Ocean Sciences Meeting. Serena presents her updated MS research to an international audience, networks with other scientists, and reluctantly hikes a volcano and visits the beach.

Making the best of a tough situation, Serena presents her research in Hawaii.

Making the best of a tough situation, Serena presents her research in Hawaii.

July 2014- Serena joins the Bruno lab in conducting fieldwork in Mexico.  She put her diving skills to good use round-the-clock, setting up videos to document herbivore grazing during the day and collecting parrotfish tissue samples by night.

August 2014- After a jaunt to Scotland to present her lionfish research at the 2014 International Marine Conservation Congress, Serena begins her last semester at UNC. This includes wrapping up her data analysis, writing her thesis, and continuing to TA.

Even with her extensive scicomm background, it was challenging for Serena to keep a straight face when presenting to an entire room of Scottish bagpipers.

Even with her extensive scicomm background, it was challenging for Serena to keep a straight face when presenting to an entire room of Scottish bagpipers.

November 2014- Serena presents her MS thesis defense, entitled “The Impacts of the Lionfish Invasion on Coral Reef Fish Communities in Belize.” Her successful defense is attended by the UNC MASC community, as well as other academics, management professionals, and a virtual audience Skyping in from around the state.

December 2014- It’s official! Cue “Pomp & Circumstance” as Serena walks in the UNC Fall 2014 Commencement Ceremony to receive her MS degree. It’s a well-deserved honor, and we’re sure the timeline of Future Serena will be filled with even more impressive milestones.  Bon voyage!

Let there be no confusion: Serena is a Graduate.

Let there be no confusion: Serena is a Graduate.


Infographic by Megan Schutt

One thought on “Bon Voyage, Serena!

  1. Reblogged this on Adventures of Serenita and commented:

    This post was written by my fellow UNdertheC blogger, former housemate, and very good friend Kathleen Onorevole on UNdertheC blog. (Check out UNdertheC, a marine science blog I co-founded in graduate school, in my “Links”) I was so surprised and moved that she put all of this together as my “send off” from UNC. Writing with the UNdertheC team has been an integral part of my time in grad school. We have learned so much both together and from each other through this science communication adventure that we started as almost complete novices just a year and a half ago. I want to thank the entire UNdertheC team for their continued support, their creative insights, and the great times we shared during grad school at UNC. I am going to miss you all!


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