Meet Undergraduate Student Researcher Jacob Hromyak

Hello, my name is Jacob Hromyak and I am currently a Junior studying Biomedical Sciences and part of the Coastal Estuarine & Ecology Lab with Dr. Linda Walters in Biology Department. Since joining the lab in the Fall of 2018, I have gained a great amount of passion for the field of conservation and even more so for the study of birds, leading to my current independent study of wading bird diversity and abundance in Mosquito Lagoon. This study is done to examine the ecological role of bird species as biological indicators and how changes in bird diversity, abundance, and activity can give rise to environmental changes in Mosquito Lagoon. An added element of this study is to assist children at PedsAcademy as they engage in their own analysis of bird diversity.

Back in December Dr. Walters and Dr. Nickels gave me the opportunity to combine my research and future career together, as an aspiring orthopedic surgeon. With this, we found an innovative way to involve children as citizen-scientists in this project, hoping to both benefit their well-being and contribute to regional environmental protection. At the time I didn’t realize how much PedsAcademy would impact my life, not just as an undergraduate researcher but as a human being. My time at Nemours is spent bedside with children educating them on the importance of Mosquito Lagoon as an estuary and the roles of bird as keystone species and allowing them to embark on this research with me and play the part of an expert ornithologist. Upon introducing myself to children and their families I urge that their assistance on this project is needed and make it a point that their contributions are important. However, there is a much bigger picture in mind in that each child feels included and a part of society despite of the everyday challenges and obstacles they may face. Their help in my study serves as an educational platform where these children have a unique experience to learn about surrounding ecosystems through literature resources and ornithology identifying technology. In the short amount of time spent with each child I strive to educate them on the importance of birds, proper identification of bird species and activity, and elements of research.

As I continue this research, I will further look at creative ways to get children involved such as through robotics, Legos, and animated books written by Dr. Walters herself. Since beginning this project with PedsAcademy, I have worked with individuals from diverse backgrounds and had the privilege to be a part of the first ever program geared towards providing schooling to the chronically ill. With each encounter a new lesson was learned, I quickly realized that this was not only a life experience for each child but one for me as well, an experience I will always cherish and be grateful for. This experience has given me access one-on-one patient interaction, knowledge of pediatrics, and exposure to education in a hospital care setting. Throughout this experience I have found myself to be more well-suited, and aid in my personal growth, more importantly being an eye-opening experience and raising awareness about the effects of pediatric illnesses. I know that as I apply to medical schools this summer and become an orthopedic surgeon all of these lessons in this program will prepare for anything this future career has in store.