Josh Harris '10: "Conducting research...has been the highlight of my R-MC experience."
Josh Harris ’10 remembers well his first impression of Randolph-Macon
College. “It was January 2005, and I was a little apprehensive about coming here
because R-MC is much bigger than my high school,” says Harris. “Then I
saw the beautiful campus, and after talking with faculty and students, I knew R-MC
was perfect for me.”
Harris is a biology and environmental studies major whose love for the outdoors
began at a young age. “My grandpa got me involved in fishing as soon as I could
stand and hold a fishing pole,” says Harris. “Now, when I’m not in school, I am
either on the water or in the woods, enjoying nature. I chose my majors because
they will allow me to work outside.”
The outdoor buff is an active member of R-MC’s Habitat for Humanity and Students
for Environmental Action (SEA) organizations. “I have done fundraising for Habitat
and I am the vice-president of SEA. We hold an annual recycled-art contest, participate
in Macon a Difference Day and help to make the R-MC campus ‘green’ through recycling
projects,” says Harris.
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The energetic Harris also serves as a Resident Assistant. “Being a resident
assistant is exciting,” he says. “I am really involved on campus and can assist
students with various problems. I also help uphold the code of student conduct so
that residents have a safe environment. It’s very rewarding to help someone and
know that you have made a difference.”
For Harris, there’s more to college life than just class work. “R-MC offers student-professor
interactions that bigger colleges cannot,” he says. “I have gone to dinner with
my professors to talk about research numerous times. Professors also host social
gatherings at their homes, which helps create friendships. Dr. Gowan is my advisor
and he has been very influential in my academic pursuits. He has hosted several
gatherings at his house where he cooks and socializes with everyone. I view Dr.
Gowan not only as my professor, but as a friend.”
Conducting Research in the Field
Harris has been an enthusiastic participant in the college’s Schapiro Undergraduate
Research Fellowship (SURF) program. SURF was introduced in 1995 as an endowment
to support scholarly undergraduate research by R-MC students in all disciplines.
The initial gift for this program was made by Benjamin Schapiro ’64 and his wife
“I spent one summer conducting research in Harrisonburg, Virginia,” says Harris.
“Shannon White ’10, Dr. Gowan and I were testing to see if native brook trout were
capable of transitive inference, which happens when an individual learns a behavior
from another individual through observation. We trained a group of brook trout in
one pool to take an introduced novel prey source—fried mealworms—and then transported
the trained fish into pools with untrained fish. We then observed to see if, and
how long, it took for untrained fish to learn to take mealworms as a food source.
We found that brook trout are indeed capable of transitive inference. Conducting
research as a SURF student was amazing. I was immersed in my research for two straight
months. We spent 27 days in the field camping, and the other time in the lab analyzing
Harris and White followed up their research experience by traveling to Lexington,
Virginia with Gowan to attend an American Fisheries conference, where they won a
“Best Presentation” award. From there they traveled to Birmingham, Alabama to present
their research results at the Association of Southeastern Biologists conference.
“We were able to present alongside graduate students and experts, and we were among
the few undergraduate presenters at the conference,” says Harris.
Research in The Rockies
During the summer of 2009, Harris again participated in the SURF program, this time
conducting research at several Rocky Mountain streams in north central Colorado.
“Dr. Gowan, Shannon White and I went to Colorado to do a continuation of Dr. Gowan’s
Ph.D. study on the long-term efficacy of in-stream habitat manipulations in improving
trout habitat and abundances in high-elevation streams,” explains Harris. “We camped
for a month beside five different streams in remote areas of The Rockies. We worked
long, hard days on the streams, but the evening scenery and the amazing wildlife
made it easy to relax at night. We saw pronghorn, mule deer, moose, elk, coyote
and wildflowers that pictures cannot do justice to. On two occasions, we had cow
moose walk into camp during lunch. In our spare time, we would venture off to explore
the surrounding areas and take pictures. Camping in the Colorado Rockies and conducting
research on different streams has been the highlight of my R-MC experience.”
Harris’s post-R-MC plans include graduate school. “I want to continue studying environmental
science,” he says. “I am not quite sure where graduate school will take me, but
that is part of the excitement!”
For information on R-MC’s SURF program, visit
For information on R-MC’s biology department, visit
For information on R-MC’s environmental studies department, visit
For more R-MC student profiles, visit http://www.rmc.edu/why-rmc/students.aspx.
For more information about the breadth of programs and opportunities available at
Randolph-Macon or to schedule a campus visit, contact our Admissions Office at (800)
888-1762 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.