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Uncovering the tools of the trade

From biology to photography, 4 ASU students share what they carry around campus to get through their day and their classwork done

items in a biology student's backpack
September 07, 2017

Polluted beach samples from Japan, whale poop stickers and bamboo cutlery. No, this isn’t something out of a marine biology trip; these are just some of the items biology doctoral student Charles Rolsky carries around campus to help him with his day.

We peeked into the backpacks of four Arizona State University students to uncover the tools of their trades. From camera lenses to rubber molds, the contents of each bag are as unique as their owner and provide a glimpse into what it's like to study their particular major.

Charles Rolsky, doctoral student, biology

Top row, left to right: Reusable straw, reusable cutlery, red reusable shopping bag, Plastic Pollution Coalition pamphlet, wallet, earbuds, beach sand sample, tweezers, keys. Middle row, left to right: Whale poop stickers, binoculars, notebooks, pens, beach sand sample, business cards, plastic samples, bottle and vial for lab testing, water bottle. Bottom row, left to right: Sun Card, Tums. 

A doctoral student and teaching assistant in biology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Charles Rolsky works with the help of the public to collect beach sand saturated with microplastics from around the world (the samples pictured here are from Japan and San Francisco).

“I enlist the help of the public to collect beach sand saturated with microplastics around the world,” Rolsky said. “I then analyze these better to understand the impact plastic pollution has on humans and the environment.”

Because he researches plastics, he makes a point to be as sustainable as possible, using a reusable water bootle, cutlery and shopping bags. His mini binoculars have been with him since age 6, a gift from his grandmother.

Anya Manguson, sophomore, journalism

First column, top to bottom: Camera, wallet, carrying bag for flash drives, charger, memory cards and sticks. Second column, top to bottom: Extra shirt, notebooks, laptop, pens and scissors. Third column, top to bottom: Media badge, two camera lenses. Fourth column, top to bottom: Makeup bag, sunglasses, flashcard reader, UPass, Sun Card and keys.

Anya Magnuson, a journalism sophomore in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, also works at ASU as a photographer. In her backpack she carries an athletics press badge, Canon 5D Mark iii, Canon 24-70 f2.8, Canon 70-200 f2.8, SD cards, compact flash cards, a compact flash card reader, a bag of flash drives and of course her U-pass and a "life bag" that includes a toothbrush, makeup and deodorant. Forgetting her Upass, camera or the card reader would make the day pretty bad, Manguson said. 

Makayla Menges, senior, digital culture

Top row: Pencils, colored pencils, pens, Sharpies and a Pokemon bag. Middle row: Chargers, lotions, keys, notebooks. Bottom row: charger, earbuds, keys, water bottle, textbook, wallet.

Makayla Menges, a digital culture media processing senior in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, keeps it simple in her bag. She carries a variety of colored pencils and pens for drawing.

“I actually don’t know why I enjoy drawing. It’s actually really frustrating to me,” Menges said. “It’s almost like a challenge, I like challenges and it's something for my brain to do.” 

She also carries lotion, a spare phone charger, water bottle, her LSAT book as she prepares for the test on Dec. 2 and finally her blue notebook, in which she draws, takes notes in class and writes down her thoughts on the different video games she plays. 

Alvin Huff, graduate student, art 

First column, top to bottom: Rasps and utility knives for sculpting, wrist cuff, laptop. Second column, top to bottom: VGA adaptor, X-Acto knife blades, sunglasses holder. Third column: Flash drives, pens, tokens from a brewery conference. Fourth column, top to bottom: Charger, receipts. 

Graduate metal sculptor Alvin Huff, from the Herbeger Institute for Design and the Arts, keeps small tools to file plaster mold edges and razors to separate the rubber molds he’ll use for lost wax casting.  

“I’ll turn that around and put that in another ceramic shell and then melt out the wax and then fill the void with aluminum," Huff said.

He also has receipts from Home Depot and machine shops, and tokens from a brewery conference in Las Vegas, as he is a part-time beer brewer. Huff also works in IT at ASU, so he carries around items such as a VGA adapter and flash drives. 

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