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July 1998

Back in action: SOARS' returning students launch summer #3

The 1998 SOARS protégés: (front row) Jennifer Zabel, Monica Rivera, Sharon Abbas, Andrew Church, Darnell Powers, Paul Lowe; (middle row) Shirley Murillo, Michelle Dunn, Zobeida Ocasio, Cherelle Blazer, Rachel Mayfield; (back row) Ismael Rodriguez, Catherine Edwards, Naressa Cofield, Stephanie Rivale, Shauntel Carwell, Sharon Perez-Suarez, Lacey Holland.

The fresh faces that first appeared at UCAR in the summers of 1996 and 1997 are back, this time reflecting the confidence of atmospheric researchers in the making. The Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science program (SOARS) kicked off its third summer with a reception for protégés and their UCAR/NCAR/UOP mentors on 8 June.

As the program matures, the paths of SOARS protégés are beginning to diverge. In June, Quindi Franco became the program's first alumnus as he completed his master's from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Public Policy. Four other protégés will spend this summer at their respective universities, conducting research that in some cases is partially supported by SOARS. (The program typically splits the cost of up to two years of graduate assistantships.) Three protégés are on leave from the program.

That leaves seven returning protégés who will spend this summer at NCAR. Joining them will be 12 newcomers. As in past summers, each protégé is matched with a research mentor, typically a UCAR scientist; a community mentor from the UCAR staff who spends time and energy getting to know the protégé as a person; a science-writing mentor to help the protégé craft prose; and a peer mentor--a fellow protégé--to share experiences with. From the research underlying SOARS, "We know that learning in communities is more effective than learning as individuals," says director Tom Windham.

Returning protégés and their past mentors may agree to continue the previous summer's relationship, or the protégé may opt for one or more new mentors. "I'm a broker for the students," says Tom, who works with an in-house steering committee to help match protégés with mentors.

Next summer will bring a new twist to SOARS. NASA, NOAA, and the U.S. Department of Energy are now supporting the program (along with the primary sponsor, NSF), and the agencies will begin hosting protégés in 1999. The idea is to leverage the SOARS concept so that other laboratories can benefit from the protégé's contributions and the program can benefit from a variety of research locales and programs.

Whether they spend their summer sharpening research skills in Boulder or beyond, all protégés are invited to present their work at the SOARS Colloquium held at NCAR in early August. Watch This Week at UCAR for schedule details. In the next issue of Staff Notes Monthly, we'll visit with some of the new protégés for 1998 and list mentors and research interests for each protégé, new and returning. •BH

What was the biggest surprise from your first SOARS summer?

Lacey Holland: How much it felt like being on MTV's The Real World.

Sharon Perez-Suarez: How beautiful the Mesa Lab is and to actually have an office in that building.

Preston Heard: The sense of community at UCAR/NCAR.

Chris Castro: The town of Boulder itself. It seems like the 1960s hung around here for another 30 years! Being from very conservative central Pennsylvania, Boulder took me back to living in Davis, California. Both cities are pretty affluent, environmentally sensitive, and very liberal (sometimes to the extreme).

Stephanie Rivale: The fact that it was actually possible to have an active social life in a scientific community!

Darnell Powers: How quickly I adjusted to a new environment and job. Also, how nice and helpful the scientists at UCAR/NCAR were. Most of all, I found the life of a professional scientist was totally different than I expected.

What was your most unforgettable experience last summer?

Shirley Murillo: A couple of the SOARS protégés and I went hiking to the top of Bear Peak. When we reached the top, I felt as if I was on top of the world overlooking everything. It was breathtaking!

Quindi Franco: Bowling in the basement of the Executive Office of the President. [Quindi was in Washington, D.C., for an internship studying U.S. climate research policy.]

Stephanie Rivale: Seeing a waterspout over the Boulder Reservoir from the fifth-floor roof right outside my office.

Lacey Holland: My roommate [Shirley Murillo] and I, both meteorology majors, stepped outside during a hailstorm, carrying frying pans in hopes of collecting some hailstones and storing them in our freezer. As we stepped out, I locked the door--accidentally leaving my key inside! It was kind of embarrassing having to explain to people what we were doing carrying frying pans around outside during a hailstorm. (Sigh. Only a meteorology major would understand. . . . )

Have you experienced any major changes in scientific interest since you started SOARS?

Stephanie Rivale: After my first summer (1996) I decided to specialize in atmospheric chemistry instead of chemical engineering.

Janel Cobb: Initially, when I was at Howard University [earning an master's degree in physics] I was studying the frequency response of quartz crystal oscillators to known mass changes. Since I have been at Colorado State University [as a doctoral student], I have studied large-aerosol characteristics over the southern Pacific Ocean from ACE-1 [the Aerosol Characterization Experiment], which was done in 1995. Sonia Kreidenweis [CSU] and I work in collaboration with Darrel Baumgardner [RAF].

Chris Castro: My principal interest is still climate and climate-change impacts on a regional scale. This last year I've become more interested in ENSO [El Niño/Southern Oscillation] and its connections to Colorado climate. My master's project will probably investigate the dependence of the climate of western U.S. mountain watersheds on ENSO.

Shirley Murillo: Actually, SOARS has confirmed my interest in meteorology. Working on "real life" projects and putting everything I've learned to practice has reassured me of my interests.

What would you do with a $1 million research grant, no strings attached?

Sharon Perez-Suarez: Study volcanoes and mid-ocean ridges (submarine volcanoes). Understand how volcanic eruptions affect the stratosphere by studying the volatiles expelled from volcanoes. Do deep research in submarine vulcanism. Install an observatory along the Cayman Trough, Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and Pacific Rise. Try to establish a relationship between oceanographic and atmospheric systems.

Janel Cobb: Start some educational programs in science for children. I would specifically like to target minorities or low-income families. I think it is important to try to influence young minds in the areas of science by introducing them to research that is presently going on--kind of what SOARS does, but starting with a lower age group.

Quindi Franco: I'd spend some of it "studying" the history of bicycle frame building in Europe and the impacts of ecotourism on tropical oceans, beaches, and reefs; and the rest on a project to study the impact of climate variability and climate change on the poor in developing countries and possible policy responses.

What's your favorite place in Boulder?

Stephanie Rivale: The Mesa Lab. There could not be a more spectacular building or view. On a social note, I would have to say the Rio Grande.

Preston Heard: Boulder Creek--no limitation in variety.

Quindi Franco: Sitting back with a beer, enjoying the evening after a gorgeous night-patrol mountain bike ride.

Janel Cobb: I don't have a favorite place in Boulder. I spend most of my time in Fort Collins [attending CSU]. I truly enjoy the Horsetooth Reservoir view. If you walk or ride along it, you can see a magnificent view of the reservoir and Fort Collins. It is very peaceful.

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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu

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