UCAR > Communications > Quarterly > Fall 1996 Search

SOARS gives wings to diversity

by Robert Henson
UCAR Communications

A new UCAR program could make a dramatic change in the number of atmospheric scientists from ethnically diverse backgrounds. SOARS (Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science) offers promising students from minority backgrounds a multiyear exposure to the field that includes several summers at UCAR and a coordinated educational experience through the master's or doctoral level. Support for graduate studies is shared between SOARS and NSF funds and the universities involved. To date, over half of UCAR's member have committed to participate in this way.

The lack of ethnic diversity among advanced-degree atmospheric science graduates is well recognized, but its remedy is not so easy to see. UCAR had long combatted the problem through its Summer Employment Program (SEP), which brings students to NCAR or UOP for a summer of exposure to real-world science. The theory behind SOARS is that even this opportunity may not be enough to counteract the numerous pressures on disadvantaged young people. To ensure that the best and brightest students make it to the doctoral level, they need the kind of intensive mentoring and resources that more mainstream students might take for granted.

"In 1994, the UCAR Board of Trustees asked us to consider new ways to make an impact on the significant underrepresentation problem," says UCAR president Richard Anthes. "We came up with the idea of extending SEP into a multiyear program that would see the students through graduate school. Although SEP was successful, we really didn't have the follow-through we needed." Anthes and Edna Comedy, UCAR associate vice-president for human resources, created the initial SOARS proposal. It was accepted by the NSF in 1995, and Tom Windham was chosen to head the program in April.

In its initial year, SOARS chose 12 promising undergraduates and one graduate student. Each student, known as a protégé, was assigned four mentors: one in the career sense, one to provide writing and communication guidance, one to serve as a community liaison, and one (actually, a subset of three other SOARS protégés) to offer peer support. Although the commitment required from the staff mentors is extensive, "We were fortunate to have more scientific and technical volunteers offering research opportunities than we had protégés to fill the slots," says Windham. Since their summer experience, four of the students have entered graduate school.

1996 SOARS protégés

SOARS students, clockwise from left: Christopher Castro, Carl Etsitty, Stephanie Revale, Preston Heard, Lacey Holland, Quindi Franco, Jennifer Price, Kiesha Stevens, Paneen Peterson, Karen Mozealous, Jazmin Diaz-Lopez, and Jennifer Zabel. (Photo by Carlye Calvin)

• Christopher Castro, Pennsylvania State University, atmospheric science; scientific and community mentors: Tomislava Vukicevic, Stephen Sadler; 1996 project: sensitivity of computer-generated forecasts to input parameters

• Jazmin Diaz-Lopez, Metropolitan University of Puerto Rico, environmental science; scientific and community mentors: Elisabeth Holland, Cheryl Cristanelli; 1996 project: examination of nitrogen oxide cycle

• Carl Etsitty, master's degree student at the University of Arizona, Department of Soil Water and Environmental Science; scientific and community mentors: Lee Klinger, Harriet Barker; 1996 project: Biosphere-Atmosphere Interactions Project

• Quindi Franco, master's degree student at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, science and technology policy; scientific and community mentors: Roger Pielke, Jr.; Janine Goldstein; 1996 project: improving the connection of research to decision makers

• Preston Heard, master's degree student at Jackson State University, meteorology and mathematics; scientific and community mentors: Ed Brandes/Jim Wilson, Bob Roesch; 1996 project: radar hydrology

• Lacey Holland, University of Oklahoma, meteorology; scientific and community mentors: Maura Hagan, Susan Montgomery-Hodge; 1996 project: upper atmosphere research

• Karen Mozealous, University of Virginia, environmental engineering; scientific and community mentors: Steven Massie, Ann-Elizabeth Nash; 1996 project: analysis of Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) data

• Paneen Peterson, University of Alaska, archaeology; scientific and community mentors: Starley Thompson/Ben Felzer, Nancy Norris; 1996 project: climate change research

• Jennifer Price, Florida A&M University, environmental engineering; scientific and community mentors: Elliot Atlas, Pat Baker; 1996 project: trace-gas chemistry

• Stephanie Rivale, University of Rochester, chemical engineering; scientific and community mentors: Sasha Madronich, Pat Baker; 1996 project: modeling of tropospheric chemistry and ultraviolet radiation

• Kiesha Stevens, Clark Atlanta University, physics; scientific and community mentors: Scott Doney, Sandra Henry; 1996 project: exploration of the iron fertilization hypothesis

• Jennifer Zabel, Weber State University, environmental engineering; scientific and community mentors: Dan Gablehouse, Susan Friberg; 1996 project: planning and scheduling of UARS/Solstice

• Janel Cobb, Ph.D. candidate at Colorado State University, meteorology. Cobb spent the summer at the Center for the Study of Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Atmospheres in Washington, D.C.


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