La-Doniea Nisbeth is an Environmental Sciences student pursuing her own research questions through the EURēCA! Fellows Program. EURēCA! Student Ambassador Jacob Torrens chats with her to discuss getting involved in research, narrowing in on a research topic, and how to find a research mentor.

Jacob Torrens:

All right, let's start with what is your major at CU Denver?

 

La-Doniea Nisbeth:

My major is Environmental Sciences and I'm in the Department of Geography. I started at Texas Tech, and I wanted to be a chemical engineer. But then I transferred to UCCS, and I wanted to be an environmental engineer, so environmental science was the closest. I like the environment, because in Jamaica (where I’m from), we’re very conscious of our environment and how we impact it, especially with the coral reefs, and our ecosystem.

 

Jacob Torrens:

Well, that's really cool. How did you get to CU Denver?

CU Denver student La-Doniea Nisbeth

La-Doniea Nisbeth 
Environmental Sciences (expected)

La-Doniea Nisbeth:

My family just opened a restaurant, so we all moved. And that's how I moved to CU Denver, transferring because we were leaving Colorado Springs.

 

Jacob Torrens:

Could you tell me about the transition to CU Denver?

 

La-Doniea Nisbeth:

The transition was smooth. Financial aid is the main barrier for me in my college journey since I'm a first gen student and the financial aid stuff is on me. So, I was just making sure that it would be a good decision. I transferred when we were still online, and the staff were really friendly. That's what I liked at first, my counselor and the financial aid office were similar to UCCS since it’s the same CU system. After a while, I settled in and it's going okay so far.

 

Jacob Torrens:

Tell me about how you got into research.

 

La-Doniea Nisbeth:

I've always been an innovative person- hands on and wanting to know more. I always had ideas in Jamaica growing up, so that followed me here. When I decided I wanted to be an environmental engineer, I wanted to create things to help the environment and underrepresented people. So that's where the research comes in, so that I can figure out the perspective of the people I'm helping.

 

Jacob Torrens:

And what was your journey to get to research?

 

La-Doniea Nisbeth:

I would journal and write my ideas down, and then Google it. But then at UCCS I applied for a competitive grant in the winter of 2017 and the summer of 2018 to go to Uganda to study water sterilization methods in eastern Africa.

 

The environmental challenges that they face are malaria and cholera, which are waterborne diseases and problems that are caused by poor sterilization methods. We were researching and observing through the methods of boiling water and building water filters and distillers. Basically, I was in a group with individuals who didn't speak proper English, it challenged me to ask more questions and understand how to be okay with being uncomfortable in a new environment. That's where my research started.

Jacob Torrens:

Wow. So how did you get involved in research here?

 

La-Doniea Nisbeth:

My Geography teacher told me about the EURēCA! program in the spring. He was talking about the grant that they give students if they have cool ideas they want to look at. Because of that, I looked at the EURēCA! Fellows page through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities and went ahead with it, because I always have ideas.

Jacob Torrens:

How did you get to a topic?

 

La-Doniea Nisbeth:

My visit to Eastern Africa impacted me through the things I saw. A lot of times when I heard about Africa, it was about underdeveloped ways of life. But when I went and saw some things that were even ahead of the US, it was surprising for me. Something I saw there was that they use their phones to pay for everything. They pay for the taxi, phone bill, bills for their house, and mortgage with their phone. Money is a big thing in every part of the world and it's on their phone. So, I found that really interesting and was able to observe it up front. I thought what could this do in Jamaica, which is also classified as a third world country because of its GDP. And I thought, I'd want to build something like that. And it would be something related to my major because it's environmental sciences with engineering applied.

 

Jacob Torrens:

And do you have a research mentor now?

 

La-Doniea Nisbeth:

I would say I have three mentors, my professors, my main mentor for the EURēCA! program is Esther Sullivan in the Sociology Department, and my other mentor is Thomas Duster. He's in the Environmental Science and Geography department and recommended the EURēCA! program to me. We would have class in Zoom and after class, I would ask questions, that's why he was recommending things, because I have an interest in exploring my ideas.

 

Jacob Torrens:

That's really great to hear, and what does your relationship look like with your research mentor?

 

La-Doniea Nisbeth:

We meet every other week this semester. But during the summer, in the EURēCA! Summer Fellows Program, we would meet weekly, and talk about our updates and how far everything was going. The research for summer that I was doing was on the positive social impact of financial technology apps on developing countries. A FinTech app is a financial technology app that uses mobile money technologies, so that people can have instant transfers and stuff like that, similar to Venmo. And I chose Esther as my mentor because of the sociology aspect and the importance of the social impact. And she's very insightful. She knows how to direct me the right way, even if I need extra mentors, because there are areas, we've pinpointed that she may not be as insightful in, like the business aspect of FinTech or computer science. Our relationship is going good so far because of the open communication.

My advice would be to just try to do something that you think you'll enjoy, or if you don't know exactly what you're going to do, find recommendations from things that maybe you enjoyed earlier in your childhood.

Jacob Torrens:

And where are you in this process?

 

La-Doniea Nisbeth:

In the summer we researched and collected data about the success of FinTech apps as well as the disadvantages seen in countries similar to Jamaica. That data is going to be the blueprint of the product that I plan to build.

 

Right now, we're just organizing the data from summer which includes interviews, surveys, and just regular peer reviewed research from other research done on FinTech in developing countries like Kenya and Nigeria, and other countries that are not developing countries, like China and Australia. Greenland and Sweden are other places where FinTech is very big and makes a cashless society.

 

The importance of this app is that it will bridge the financial gap where some people are not serviced the way that others are, so the app will give them a way to actually be a part of the economy. Jamaica’s prime minister voiced that this digitization is important for the financial sector. I'm working very hard to create this, because it not only gives a solution, but it also provides jobs and positively impacts the economy.

 

Jacob Torrens:

That's really cool. It sounds like you have a long-term plan. And my last question, what advice would you have to students new to research?

 

La-Doniea Nisbeth:

My advice would be to just try to do something that you think you'll enjoy, or if you don't know exactly what you're going to do, find recommendations from things that maybe you enjoyed earlier in your childhood. The reason why I'm enjoying FinTech and researching FinTech is because it relates to the place where I was born and raised. Just find something that's going to make you feel good when you read about it and get up and do it. It doesn't have to be another homework assignment- it could be as fun as you want it to be.

 

Jacob Torrens:

That's great. Thanks!