Record Number Of Interns/Fellows Present Research At International Science Meeting
By David Sims, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space
December 12, 2007
At this year’s American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco,
which began yesterday, a record number of students from UNH’s signature
Research & Discover program presented scientific findings to the estimated
15,000 participants gathered from around the world. The five-day AGU meeting,
the largest of its kind, occurs annually in San Francisco where scientists
share the latest research in the Earth and space sciences.
Four undergraduate and four first-year graduate R&D students will present
results of original research in poster sessions alongside established scientists
in various fields spanning the realm of geophysical topics from atmospheric
science to volcanology. Seven of the eight students are lead authors for their
presentations, with faculty advisors as co-authors. The Research & Discover
internship-fellowship program is housed at the Institute for the Study of Earth,
Oceans, and Space (EOS).
“To have students presenting at AGU is testament to the fact that they
are doing significant scientific research,” says ecologist George Hurtt
of EOS and the UNH Department of Natural Resources. Hurtt also directs the
six-year-old R&D program, which is a collaborative venture between UNH
and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space
Having undergraduate and beginning graduate students present their research
findings at so large and notable a scientific meeting as AGU, Hurtt emphasizes,
means that students are being engaged in real research projects at an earlier-than-usual
stage in their career, which is precisely what the R&D program was designed
Hurtt calls the program a “pipeline of opportunities” where students
have a breadth of interdisciplinary research topics made available to them
in an environment that very closely mirrors a graduate school experience. Moreover,
the internship-fellowship opportunity occurs at a critical juncture in a student’s
career – the transitional period from undergraduate to potential graduate
“To launch them on a solid career in science you’ve got to give
them more than just a summer. You’ve got to show them an exciting path
through what is arguably one of the most uncertain periods in their careers.”
Research & Discover begins with an intensive 10-week, class-free research
internship for rising college seniors and is followed by a second summer internship
at the Goddard Space Flight Facility – the nation’s largest Earth
science research enterprise. Qualifying students can then transition from the
internship program to a two-year, full-time, graduate fellowship to either
continue their research or branch into a new topic area.
First-year graduate student Katelyn Dolan is one of the R&D student presenters
at this year’s AGU meeting. An environmental conservation major, Dolan
began as an R&D intern in her junior year and is now in the fellowship
phase of the program. Dolan presented a poster at last year’s AGU meeting
on research into potential effects of climate change on croplands in the pan-Arctic
region. Her poster this year details research of an entirely different flavor – the
analysis of historical forest regrowth using different types of satellite data.
Dolan is trying to interpret data from NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation
Satellite (IceSAT) to determine if it can be used to make informative and accurate
measurements of forest tree heights, which could be used to help calculate
terrestrial carbon budgets. This complex work could inform NASA’s designs
to build and launch next-generation satellites.
As part of her summer internship at Goddard, Dolan participated in a planning
meeting for ICEsat II and talked with the scientists grappling with the very
issues she was researching as part of their decision-making process.
“There I was, an undergraduate being part of this new horizon of science
at NASA. It was amazing,” Dolan says. As with her AGU poster session
at last year’s meeting, she looks forward to fielding questions from
scientists about her work with the ICEsat data and, in turn, posing questions
to them as well.
Other R&D students participating in this year’s AGU meeting are
Virginia Sawyer, Mimi Szeto, Erica Lindgren, Emily Glick, Jordan Goodrich,
Haley Wicklein, and Jennifer Wurtzel.
Every year, UNH has a strong presence at the AGU meeting as measured by faculty,
staff, and students attending and presenting, and scientific abstracts submitted.
In the latter category, last year UNH ranked sixth in raw numbers, in the company
of CalTech, the University of California, Berkeley, the Lamont-Doherty Earth
Observatory of Columbia University, and others.