Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Brianna Shaughnessy

Brianna Shaughnessy spent two summers working at the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, where she made daily presentations on turtles and managed the tide pool exhibit in the aquarium.

Interview by Amanda DeGroff ’12

Influential professor? Coming to Wheaton, I had a huge choice to make. I started off as a double major, but decided to focus on biology after my internship with Professor Barbara Brennessel. After seeing her passion for her job and working with other scientists who were just as passionate, I really felt a connection to the biological field.

Wheaton’s influence: As a bio major, I knew about the animals in the museum’s exhibits and had studied them before working there. Being able to bring in the scientific viewpoint (mostly about conservation efforts) gave a new perspective to seasoned volunteers at the museum. Many of the volunteers were older than me, so I brought a fresh young perspective to the information moving through the aquarium.

Teaching children: Kids are the best “learning tools” in the world. They asked me questions I would never even think to ask, and I learned so much from finding the answers. It was also rewarding to hear kids excitedly telling their parents the new facts they had learned. Seeing the look on the little ones’ faces made each day unique and exciting for me. I felt like I wasn’t working, just doing something I loved.

Life-changing lessons: This experience has made me seriously consider a job in the zoological field. It is hard to leave the museum each summer, because it feels like such a home and such a wonderful place to me. My bosses pushed me out of my comfort zone by having me give solo, hour-long presentations each week, and it helped me so much. I can now speak confidently in front of large crowds about almost anything.

After graduation: I’m not done traveling yet. I will always want to stay connected with the museum, but I would love to broaden my horizons. I’m crossing my fingers that an internship in Australia works out, but I’m also checking out the Woods Hole Science Aquarium and the New England Aquarium in Boston.