SRI Stories: Gap-Year Buzz


“I joined the beekeepers club my first semester of college,” says Claudia Wiese, a recent graduate from the U and an alum of the Science Research Initiative (SRI). She became very interested in bees — both honeybees and native bees. “So when an opportunity arose to do research on bees, I was very excited.”

Not as excited, perhaps, as bees get when they’re being looked at and managed by an eager student researcher. Little do they know, they are in good (and ambitious) hands. The Missoula, Montana native graduated with no fewer than three degrees: two BS honors degrees, one in biology and the other in Environmental and Sustainability Studies as well as a BA in Latin American Studies.

But wait. There’s more. She also graduated with Honors Ecology and Legacy Integrated Minor which offers students a guided pathway through Honors, one where they can dive into environmental and ecological thinking in an interdisciplinary manner.

Busy as a bee, it would appear.

SRI experience

No wonder today, Claudia is taking a gap-year break before she heads back to academia for a graduate degree. In the meantime, she spends “a lot of time outside and work[ing] as a ski instructor and river guide. It’s also a priority of mine to be active in local organizations that work on protecting public lands.”

Bzzzzz . . .

“Honeybees,” she reminds us, “are only about eight species of 20,000+ bee species in the world! In other words, the vast majority of bees on earth do not make honey.” This isn’t your average backyard beekeeper. In her research, she explains, “I sequence the DNA of pollen from honeybees to understand what plants they are visiting. Specifically, I am using this approach to understand the effect of a mite treatment that is commonly used. Do bees visit different flowers due to the treatment?,” she asks.

Her SRI experience in the program's Pollen Metagenomics research stream was a definite introduction and asset to her field of study. And gap-year or not, she regularly leaves Snowbird during the winter where she works as a ski instructor to continue working in her SRI stream “with the goal to finalize my research and mentor other students.”

“I am very thankful for the opportunities that SRI has provided me,” says Claudia Wiese, the recent graduate, poised to take on the next hive of scientific inquiry. “They have been an incredible launchpad to culture my passion for research and [to demonstrate how to balance it with my other interests.”


By David Pace

SRI Stories is a series by the College of Science, intended to share transformative experiences from students, alums, postdocs and faculty of the Science Research Initiative. To read more stories, visit the SRI Stories page.