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Atmospheric science

Graduate students mentor high school researchers this past summer

In AOES, even the students can have students.

This summer, AOES hosted six high school students for internships in climate dynamics.  AOES scientists Natalie Burls, Daniel Tong, and David Straus were the students’ faculty advisors.  Faculty members enlisted their advisees in the Climate Dynamics Doctoral Program to assist in guiding and mentoring the interns.  The students presented their work this summer at the culminating event of Mason’s Aspiring Scientists Summer Internship Program (ASSIP) sponsored by the College of Science.

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Alia Wofford & Aditya Behera

Aditya Behera, from James Madison HS in Fairfax County, worked with Burls, climate student Alia Wofford, and collaborators at other institutions in a project related to Alia’s doctoral work on understanding the “Snowball Earth” episodes that occurred long before dinosaurs came on the scene. 

With graduate student Scott Knapp, Burls mentored Sophia Huh of Woodson HS to model how temperature and salinity in the North Pacific affects the isotopic composition of the shells of single-cell marine life called foraminifera. This will help scientists use the remains of foraminifera to infer the properties of the North Pacific during the Pliocene epoch several million years ago. Scott and Burls worked on another project, relating cloud behavior to ocean surface temperatures during global warming, with students Eliana Linder (Manhasset HS in New York) and Donovan Chong (home schooled). 

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Donovan Chong, Eliana Linder (on computer screen), and Sophia Huh.

David Straus, doctoral student Mary Korendyke, and Mason researcher Erik Swenson guided Deepa Shanmugam (Richard Montgomery HS) on work seeking to understand how patterns of atmospheric circulation in temperate regions can affect the start and stop of rainfall during the Indian Summer Monsoon.  Looking at a much smaller scale of atmospheric motion, Daniel Tong worked with Hanna Young and Chi-Tsan Wang on testing simplified models to predict roadside emission of pollution in New York City. Tong also worked with two other interns on various projects related to dust storms, including COVID impacts on dust related roadway fatalities (Kyle Nguyen from Thomas Jefferson High School), and using AI Art to design a dust vulnerability map for the Pan-American region (Austin Moon, Oakton High School).

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Hanna Young and Deepa Shanmugam.

According to Straus, “There is tremendous value in having the grad students mentor the high school students.”  He noted that the graduate students “were really effective in getting the [HS] students started on computing, writing abstracts.”