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A memorable week abroad

COSMIC visitor program brings U.S. undergraduates to Taiwan

by Sara Frank Bristow, UOP/COSMIC

Student visitors in bay used to construct satellites

Student visitors are dwarfed by the high bay used by Taiwan’s National Space Organization in constructing FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC and other satellites. (Photo courtesy NSPO.)

As part of a multi-year educational program that’s part cultural exchange and part scientific collaboration, 13 American students found themselves dodging a tropical cyclone and visiting the birthplace of a $100 million satellite system. They were guests of UOP’s COSMIC program (Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate, also known as FORMOSAT-3 in Taiwan). The program held its annual science workshop in Taipei on 1–3 October.

The annual student visits have taken place since 2002 under the auspices of NSF AWARE (American Workforce and Research and Education). The goal is to establish an international linkage between UCAR/NCAR, U.S. universities, and educational and research institutions in East Asia. Through these visits, U.S. students and junior scientists are introduced to new research facilities, projects, and opportunities.

This year marked the eighth trip to Asia, and the fifth to Taiwan, organized under the guidance of COSMIC director Ying-Hwa “Bill” Kuo. It was also the largest group to date, accepting students from universities across the United States. The trip got off to an exciting start, with Supertyphoon Jangmi—packing winds as strong as a Category 4 hurricane—predicted to arrive in Taipei the same evening as the students. When connecting flights were cancelled, the travelers made the most of an unscheduled overnight in Narita, Japan, where they explored the local cuisine and other offerings. Arriving in Taipei the next day, the group surveyed damage from Jangmi first hand. “This impressed upon the students the importance and urgency of improving typhoon prediction and research,” says Kuo.

COSMIC’s Taiwanese collaborators hosted a variety of events. At National Central University (NCU) in Jhongli, the students visited the Center for Space and Remote Sensing Research before presenting at a U.S.-Taiwan student conference run by students from both countries, which offered stimulating scientific exchanges. Later in the week, the group visited the National Space Organization (NSPO) in Hsin-Chu, touring the facility where COSMIC’s satellites were manufactured (see photo) as well as the mission control center that operates the satellites today.

J.J. Miau and Lumario Pardo

J. J. Miau, director general of Taiwan’s National Space Organization, confers with Lumari Pardo (Columbia University) at the student poster session. (Photo by Reid Wolcott.)

This year’s FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC Workshop was held in conjunction with the Fourth Asian Space Conference in Taipei, hosted by NSPO. There, American and Taiwanese students participated in a joint poster competition, discussing their research with scientists from around the world. Students were judged in categories including originality, comprehension, and clarity in presentation.

“The trip was a great experience, as I got to learn about Taiwan’s space program and its focus on improving weather forecasting. It was also interesting to talk with the Taiwanese graduate students about their experiences,” says Creighton University senior Anastasia Yanchilina, a protégé in UCAR’s SOARS program (Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science).

First-place contest winners Alex Schenkman (University of Oklahoma) and I-Te Lee (NCU) were awarded NSF-sponsored trips to the 2009 meeting of the American Meteorological Society in Phoenix, where COSMIC’s student program will be highlighted as a successful international collaboration. Schenkman and Lee will address their peers at a student conference and give a brief report at the COSMIC Interagency Working Group meeting organized by NSF.

Jay Fein, program director in NSF’s Division of Atmospheric Sciences, has attended COSMIC’s educational program activities since the AWARE grant was made under NSF’s Office of International Science and Engineering. He says that GPS radio occultation is a natural attractor for young atmospheric scientists because of its conceptual simplicity and transformative power. Its potential to motivate students prompted NSF to sponsor the COSMIC visitor program in hopes that students would learn about each other’s cultures and develop collaborative networks, Fein adds.

“I’ve attended all the student sessions and have heard nothing but praise from the students for the cross-cultural experiences and the excellent mentoring by the UCAR COSMIC team,” says Fein.

On the Web

COSMIC background (UCAR Quarterly, fall 2007)

Student reports from 2008 COSMIC trip to Taiwan


Students were treated to sightseeing in Taipei in the days following the conference’s close. First stop: the 101-floor Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest buildings. Other highlights included a visit to the National Palace Museum and an evening at Shilin Night Market.

Aaron Wilson, a graduate research associate at Ohio State University’s Byrd Polar Research Center, sums up: “The FORMOSAT-3/COSMIC trip to Taiwan not only provided me with an opportunity for a unique cultural experience, but allowed me to collaborate with a group of my peers. I walk away from this journey with more confidence in my own work, having seen the time, preparation, and dedication needed in extending better science to the community.”

Students prepare to leave Taipei

Preparing to leave Taipei are (back row) Alex Schenkman and Aaron Wilson; (middle row) Ian Colón-Pagán, Tyler Lulich, Lumari Pardo, Jeremy Gibbs, Nick Pedatella, Danielle Groenen, Ben Kravitz, and Reid Wolcott; and (front row) Anastasia Yanchilina, Kim Prinzi Kimbro (UOP/COSMIC), Rachel Storer, Sara Frank Bristow (UOP/COSMIC), and Kate Sammler. (Photo by Christian Rocken, UOP/COSMIC.)


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