Natali Gonzalez shares the best part of CSUS is finding a supportive community
Natali Gonzalez, Environmental Studies and Sustainability (ESS) major in CSUS, shares why she chose ESS- exploring the interconnectedness of the environment and society.
Name: Natali Gonzalez
Hometown: Linn San Manuel, Texas
Major: Environmental Studies and Sustainability Minor: Agronomy
Expected graduation date: Spring 2024
Why did you choose Environmental Studies and Sustainability major?
We share this world, and we share the role and responsibility of caring for our only home. A role we each play an important part in and a responsibility that feels like a burden as our world faces many challenges that demand we work together. Addressing the inequalities and injustices burdening our modern society is essential to advance toward the sustainable development of our world. I chose a major where I can understand the interconnectedness of the environment and social world, and what can be done to resolve these burdens, but I'm also aware it won't be such an easy task. Especially, when dealing with global issues, such as climate change and its disproportionate effects on people. Issues around the world are global issues, as they are also local issues. They can globally reach many people around the globe, but communities may be experiencing these issues differently, which is why it's crucial to understand these differences between people and the world, and my major allows this.
Who or what inspired your interest in sustainability?
As we picked the chiles under the hot Georgia sun and I felt the humidity smack me across the face, it was then I realized that I wanted more. It wasn't the fact that the work was hard, or that the pay was terrible, or that the working conditions felt almost inhumane, but rather the bitter truth that I could do more because I had opportunities many before me had ever imagined. We had been migrant farmworkers since I could remember, but my grandparents believed I was meant to be someone else, and this was just the beginning. I was raised in Tamaulipas, Mexico, where my family owned orange orchards. I was raised in nature, and I loved every minute of it, even the rough days out in the field. It was that love and respect for nature that led me to choose a career in sustainability.
What has been one of your best experiences within your major so far?
Finding a community that I am proud to be a part of. In the sustainability community, I have experienced the development of relationships with faculty and other students with similar interests. I have found a community that has led me to many paths in my career, such as becoming a part of Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences at MSU in which we will attend a conference in Georgia. The experiences I’ve had in the sustainability community will be something I cherish forever.
What do you want others to know about this major?
Pursuing a major in environmental studies and sustainability allows you to leave school with a broad range of skills, knowledge, and tools for tackling environmental issues at local, regional, or international levels. Pursuing this major means you want to find a way to work on solutions that will not only protect the environment but also have a positive impact on the quality of life without threatening our natural resources. A major in environmental studies and sustainability can lead you in many directions with a variety of career paths, which could lead you to a life of interesting opportunities, challenges, and successes.
Any thoughts or advice for current students?
Never think you aren’t professional enough. Don’t think that because of the slang in your talk, you aren’t professional enough. Don’t think that because of the way you wear your hair, you aren’t professional enough. After all, who is to say what a professional should look and sound like? Sure, there’s professional attire, but this isn’t at all the same. Don’t let these thoughts stop you from talking to people who you think are too professional for you.
What are your future plans?
As of now, I plan to attend graduate school and obtain my master's. I'd like to further my learning in agriculture, the environment, and sustainability, and gain a degree many of my people don't have. Although I don’t know exactly what I would like to obtain a master's in I want to figure it out by taking time to work in the industry to find what I would like to pursue. I know my main interests are in the environment, community engagement, and sustainability so I would like to find something that relates to that.
What’s your favorite thing about MSU?
My favorite thing about MSU is the possibility. The possibility to learn about places or things you have never heard of before. The possibility to have experiences that lead you to unexpected places. The possibility to meet friends and create relationships that will last a lifetime. Most importantly, the endless possibility to shed a light on who you are in this world.
Natali has also been active working with faculty across the university to gain first hand experience doing research. Below she shares a bit more about her work and what she has learned by working alongside faculty in this research.
What types of research work are you doing here at MSU?
I currently work as a Research Assistant, in the Plant Resilience Institute of Michigan State University, with Dr. Peter K. Lundquist Lab, where we study dynamic lipid droplets of plant plastids called plastoglobules.
I have also had the opportunity to work as a Research Technician, with Dr. Weiming Li Lab in Millersburg Michigan at the USGS Hammond Biological Station, where we primarily focused on sea lamprey pheromone communication.
Can you briefly explain what you do as a Research Assistant?
At the Lundquist lab, I assist with many activities such as data collection and analysis, extraction of plant membranes, DNA electrophoresis, and creation of figures and tables for publication. We are currently researching the effects of heat and drought stress in maize in their lipoprotein structures, plastoglobules attached to the thylakoid membrane, which participate in chloroplast metabolism and stress response.
What is the most valuable part of this experience?
My research experiences have provided me with the opportunity to discover new skills and knowledge, such as performing medical procedures on animals or extracting DNA from a plant to identify the plastoglobules in the sample. I’ve been allowed to further explore the scientific process and deepen my understanding to allow me to develop my questions and hypotheses. This has also strengthened my critical thinking skills and creative problem-solving, especially while performing field experiments.