Madeline Fisher

Senior Madeline Fisher is an undergraduate researcher double-majoring in environmental studies and music within the UNC College of Arts & Sciences. She is also a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow. Her research focuses on gathering oral histories from musicians who have come from coal-mining communities and the role environmental science plays in their lives.

photo by Alyssa LaFaro
September 6th, 2017

When you were a child, what was your response to this question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Describe your research in five words.

“Environmental issues expressed through music.”

A singer. Music has always been a part of my life. My interest in the environment didn’t come until moving away from the small, conservative town that I grew up in.

Share the pivotal moment in your life that helped you choose research as a career path.

The truth: I haven’t quite chosen research as a career path. Whenever I tell someone that I’m an environmental studies/music double-major, they usually laugh and make some joke about how different the two disciplines are. I spent my summer studying how a community has developed around coal mining, and how its culture and music reflects this. It was a great project to show how art forms like music can help shed light on hard scientific issues.

What’s an interesting/funny story from your time doing research?

I was hoping to get some photos of the side of a mountain that had been leveled by mountaintop removal. The directions that I was given were a little ambiguous, to say the least, and somehow I ended up driving into the entrance of an active mining operation. A lot of coal miners don’t take too kindly to outsiders, so it was clear to me that I needed to hightail it out of there quickly!

What advice would you give to up-and-coming female researchers in your field?

Research doesn’t have to mean using microscopes and testing samples in a lab. It can be a lot of things — like working with different kinds of people and learning from their experiences.

UNC Research is proud of every scientist on this campus, but we are especially excited to promote our female researchers in 2017. Each week this year, we will publish a short Q&A feature on one of them — whether she is an undergrad, PhD candidate, or full professor. Please click here to make a recommendation.