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July-August 2008

A day in the life of a SOARS protégé

soars students and mentors

Left to right: Asuka Suzuki-Parker, Greg Holland, Roque Cespedes, and Rich Loft.

You’ve seen them around campus: friendly young faces boarding the shuttles, lunching together in the cafeteria, and borrowing blue bikes. Or maybe they’re hovering outside conference rooms, dressed up and nervously reviewing PowerPoint presentations on their laptops.

It’s all part of SOARS (Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science), a year-round program for undergraduate and graduate students that includes an intensive 10-week summer internship.

To see what a typical day is like for a SOARS protégé, Staff Notes caught up with Roque Cespedes, a senior at the University of Miami who’s in his first year of the program. As Roque points out, though, no two days are the same during a SOARS summer—one day he might be in a writing workshop, and the next he’s touching snow for the first time.

5:30 a.m. Roque rises early. His mother, who is spending the summer in Boulder with him, helps him prepare for the day. (Due to cerebral palsy, Roque is wheelchair-bound.)

Colorado is a big geographical change for a family that hails from the Dominican Republic and Florida.“South Florida is flat with no hills or mountains, and a lot more humid,” Roque says. “I like south Florida weather, but I love watching the hills and mountains here in Boulder.”

7:30 a.m. Special Transit picks Roque up at the Bear Creek Apartments in Boulder, where the SOARS protégés live during the summer internship program.


SOARS is an undergraduate-to-graduate bridge program designed to increase the number of students from underrepresented groups pursuing graduate degrees and careers in the atmospheric and related sciences. The program is equal parts research internship, learning community, and mentoring opportunity. During the ­summer research internship, protégés are paired with science, writing, and community mentors who guide them through research projects.

This year, SOARS culminates with a public poster session at 4:00 p.m. on August 7 in the Foothills Lab cafeteria.

For more information, visit www.soars.ucar.edu.

8:00 a.m–12:00 p.m. Roque reports to work in ESSL/MMM, where he’s working with science and research mentor Greg Holland, as well as with Asuka Suzuki-Parker and Chris Davis. His writing and communications mentor is Rich Loft (CISL).

“There are always different tasks to do and it depends on the day, but mostly I’m working on my computer,” Roque says.

For his research project, Roque is studying the impacts of climate change on high-elevation precipitation and water supply, focusing on the Rocky Mountains. As a double major in meteorology and applied mathematics, with a minor in Spanish, he aspires to be a meteorologist who works on weather forecasting and climate change.

In addition to his research, Roque typically has various SOARS functions to attend: writing workshops every Thursday, computer classes, leadership training, and more.

12 p.m. Lunch in the Foothills Lab cafeteria with other protégés.

1:00–5:00 p.m. Back to work with research, meetings, and collaborating with other protégés. Roque is in a peer review group with two other protégés, which involves reading each other’s papers and providing feedback during writing workshops each week.

5:00 p.m. Time to go home—but that doesn’t necessarily mean relax. “Usually in the evenings I’m studying, writing, or doing assignments,” Roque says. “It’s stressful sometimes.”

But it’s not without camaraderie. “I visit the apartments of other protégés to chat, or they visit me,” he adds.

Weekend: “I try to have a little bit of fun, but often I have to work,” Roque says. His weekend activities have included going on a wheelchair-accessible hike with his peer mentor, McArthur (Mack) Jones, and spending time with Joanne Graham (ESSL/CGD), his community mentor.

Roque and Joanne attended the CCSM workshop in Breckenridge, where he saw snow up close for the first time. They’re also planning a trip to Pearl Street Mall and a nature hike in the Flatirons.

In this issue...

An interview with Eric Barron, NCAR’s new director

Rising fuel, food prices affect operations

Child Care Center earns green recognition

"The Hundred Languages of Children"

A day in the life of a SOARS protégé

Connecting science and the media

Short Takes

Just One Look

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