May the Mind-Opening Experiences for Science Undergraduates Continue!

2019-08-13 04:59:09.000 – Eric P. Kelsey, Ph.D., Director of Research


A few weeks ago, Intern Anna Smith posted a great blog about the group of undergraduate students who visited the summit on July 12th for an in-depth summit experience with our observers and interns. These students were a part of the 2019 summer Northeast Partnership for Atmospheric and Related Sciences (NEPARS) program, a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) funded by the National Science Foundation that is run by meteorology faculty at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Plymouth State University. This is the second year of the REU program in which 12 undergraduate students from around the country are selected from a competitive field of applicants to work in pairs with a faculty mentor on a research project for nine weeks during the summer. Here is the official abstract for the project:
The Northeast Partnership for Atmospheric and Related Sciences (NEPARS) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site brings together two primarily undergraduate institutions with atmospheric and related science programs to expand research opportunities for a diverse population of undergraduate students early in their education. REU interns will conduct research in areas of mesoscale and synoptic weather, microclimates, biometeorology, mountain meteorology, modern climate, and paleoclimate to better understand their physical processes, their predictability, and impact on society. The primary objective of the NEPARS REU site is to provide learning opportunities to a promising and diverse group of undergraduates which will help them prepare for careers in STEM fields by conducting quality scientific research, building professional networks, improving leadership skills, and developing effective communication skills. Each year a cohort of 12 undergraduate students will be offered paid summer research positions with the NEPARS REU to work with faculty mentors from Hobart & William Smith Colleges (HWS) and Plymouth State University (PSU). Six students and three mentors will work at each research location during a 9-week summer research program. Additionally, the NEPARS REU will partner with the Mt. Washington Observatory and the Department of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at SUNY Albany to offer interactions beneficial to REU student professional development. The NEPARS REU site has a primary focus on participation of rising sophomores and rising juniors that have just completed their first and second year, respectively, at two-year or four-year colleges and universities across the U.S. offering degrees in STEM fields.
The REU site will be structured so that students work in pairs with a mentor. This will allow the students to develop experience working as part of a research team, while they will also learn autonomy of research with their own individual project within the team. Modern technology, such as video-conferencing, will be leveraged so that students can communicate across the two locations. The REU site has 4 objectives for students: 1) interact with, learn from, and conduct research investigations with their peers and dedicated mentors through the use of REU pairings and a REU cohort across two research locations, 2) explore and discover the social, cultural, and geographic diversity of others with comparable academic interests from similar or vastly different colleges and universities, 3) cultivate a greater understanding of atmospheric and related sciences beyond the extent taught in the undergraduate classroom and lab, including the development and enhancement of research skills while working with observational and modeling datasets, and 4) develop effective leadership and communication skills through a series of workshops and opportunities to interact with professionals within the scientific community. Additionally the REU site has developed two objectives for the REU mentors: 1) increase interactions between two primarily undergraduate institutions to strengthen the respective programs and support new, as well as existing, faculty research collaborations, and 2) enhance faculty development as undergraduate mentors through training, faculty-to-faculty mentoring, and by working with a diverse student population from a variety of academic institutions.
Mount Washington Observatory (MWO) participates in the project in a couple of ways. I, as the Director of Research, mentored a pair of meteorology undergrads, including Anna, last summer. Anna and her research partner Charlotte studied summit weather data to understand how vertical air mass changes (between the boundary layer and the free troposphere) impact daily high and low temperatures. This work is another step toward understanding why the higher elevations of the Northeast US are warming slower than the surrounding lower elevations. The other way MWO participates is by hosting the REU students and their mentors each July for a day of engaging activities at the summit with the observers and interns. Anna also described this often transformative experience in her blog. Students learn about some of the harshest weather conditions observed on Earth, how observers take hourly weather observations in such extremes, and the importance of high-quality weather data to producing meaningful and accurate conclusions about how the weather and climate work.

NEPARS REU on the Observation deck

Through the program, we hope that students develop an interest and passion for research and experiential learning, but ultimately, we want the REU experience to help students determine what they want to do as a professional scientist.

NEPARS REU in the weather room

This two-year REU program is drawing to a close this year, however, PSU and HWS are proposing to NSF to continue the program for another three years. Their proposal will be submitted this month and this winter we will receive a decision. Keep your fingers crossed for another three years of MWO making a positive impact on the lives and careers of undergraduate students in science!


Eric P. Kelsey, Ph.D., Director of Research

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