Franklin College biology major Megan Smith, a senior from Scottsburg, Ind., recently won first place at the 40th annual Natural Areas Conference in Chicago for her original research on the Puttyroot Orchid.
The unique orchid at the center of Smith’s research was initially discovered in 2009 by Julie Evans, a 2010 graduate of the college, and Franklin College biology professor Alice Heikens. Smith’s follow up research was the basis of her first place award this year and the second place award she won last year.
“I revisited last year’s feedback from the judges, and that helped open my mind up to things I could have overlooked preparing this time around,” said Smith. “Mainly, I think my presentation stood out because I had a lot of supporting data.”
Smith has been researching the plant for two years, primarily conducting her work at the college’s biological field station, Hougham Woods, which is located east of campus.
Smith said she invested substantial time in researching the orchid seeds, which resemble dust and range from thousands to tens of thousands per capsule.
“I’ve spent a lot of time working hard on collecting the data, preparing for conferences and presenting to judges, and it has paid off,” said Smith. “My self-confidence is much stronger, and I’ve blossomed.”
She went on to add, “I couldn’t have gotten any luckier. I never knew Dr. Heikens asking me to research this orchid would lead to all these other opportunities. When I came to Franklin, I was from a small town, and very shy but this orchid research has been a path to self-discovery. ”
The Natural Area Conference is a scientific research competition. The conference is hosted by the Natural Areas Association and Chicago Wilderness. This year’s theme focused on conservation in the Midwestern United States.
For more information, contact the Franklin College Office of Marketing and Communications at (317) 738-8185.
Founded in 1834, Franklin College is a residential four-year undergraduate liberal arts institution with a scenic, wooded campus located 20 minutes south of downtown Indianapolis. The college prepares men and women for challenging careers and fulfilling lives through the liberal arts, offering its approximately 1,000 students 36 majors, 39 minors and 11 pre-professional programs. In 1842, the college began admitting women, becoming the first coeducational institution in Indiana and the seventh in the nation. Franklin College maintains a voluntary association with the American Baptist Churches USA. For more information, visit www.FranklinCollege.edu.