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Program Helps Undergrads Gain Research Experience

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug. 26, 2010


Fairbanks, Alaska—Six undergraduates are gaining valuable experience conducting their own atmospheric science research in Alaska this summer through a new program led by researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.

The Research Experience for Undergraduates in Atmospheric Sciences program is funded through a National Science Foundation grant. It puts students into the field, working closely with UAF faculty members.

Associate professor Gerhard Kramm serves as a mentor to the students, as do professor Nicole Molders and associate professor Javier Fochesatto. The six students are divided into two groups, with each group focusing on a different research theme.

Fochesatto serves as advisor to one group, which emphasizes fieldwork. This summer, participants have conducted fieldwork with Fochesatto at Toolik Field Station north of Fairbanks. There, students helped set up an array of instrumentation — sonic anemometers, scintillometers, SODAR and LIDAR — as part of a project that is trying to determine rates of evapotranspiration, or water loss to the atmosphere through soil evaporation and plant transpiration. In the long run, the work will help provide critical estimates of water availability for human use and secure wildlife habitat. It will also offer records against which to assess future conditions.

Kramm and Molders lead the second group, which focuses on the theoretical and mathematical aspects of research. They study inversion conditions over Interior Alaska during wintertime. The inversion leads to fine particulate matter pollution, produced by the combustion of heating oil, wood, automobile engines and other sources. The pollution plagues the Interior, causing adverse health effects and reduced visibility.

Two of the students attend UAF, while four are from outside Alaska, drawn from atmospheric science and meteorology programs from as far way as Penn State University. The ten-week program began in June and runs through August.
The award from NSF provides funding for the REU program to occur every summer until 2012.

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