Graduate Fellows 1998

Graduate Research Fellows
Adams, David

Adams, David

David Adams has been awarded a two-year Space Grant Fellowship, co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth (ISPE).

He describes his Space Grant outreach project as follows:

As a Space Grant Fellow, I intend to develop an outreach program that is specifically targeted toward Spanish-speaking adolescents in theTucson area school districts. The Hispanic community has traditionally been underrepresented at the University of Arizona, particulary in the Physical Sciences. In order to attract these young people to the study of the physical sciences at the university level, the university must be accessible to them. One way of attracting these students is to design outreach programs that take into account some the special needs of this community.

Specifically, my outreach program will be focused on some of the issues dealing with climate variability here in southern Arizona. The program I propose will be implemented in two tiers. To begin with, an initial trip to several middle and/or high schools with bilingual programs will include a presentation on natural climate variability in southern Arizona. This initial visit is intended to engage the students' interest in some of the basic issues in climate studies. The second stage will involve the selection of small groups of particularly motivated students to participate in visits to our department laboratories. During these visits the students will examine climate data such as long-term precipitation and temperature records. Simple (and fun!) exercises, such as mapping and graphing these data, will be carried out with the goal of developing a basic understanding of how climate varies from year to year and to develop hypotheses as to why this is the case. Instruction will be carried out entirely in Spanish which is beneficial as it demonstrates to the students that Spanish is also a language of science.

The time these students spend on campus, I believe, will be invaluable in terms of developing familiarity with the university environment and demonstrating that university and science as a field of study are, not only accessible, but also fun.

Fall 1998 update:

David Adams

Over the summer I was fortunate to have two high school students from the Mexican state of Sinaloa participate in my outreach program. In May, as part of my outreach program, I gave a talk on climate/meteorology to the faculty and students at a preparatoria (high school)in Culiacan, Sinaloa. The Universidad Autonoma de Sinaloa, which has jurisdiction over many of the public high schools in Sinaloa, has implemented a climate/meteorology program into the high school curriculum. As a result I was invited to give this talk. I was very impressed with the interest level of the students. From this meeting, we arranged for two students, Guillermo and Cesar Avila to come to work with me while they studied English and Pima Community College. During the entire month of July and into the middle of August, we met in the afternoons in Dr. Andrew Comrie's climate lab in the Department of Geography and Regional Development. During these meetings, I instructed them in some to the basics of working with meteorological data including the basics of FORTRAN programming. We also spent a great deal of time examining satellite images and weather forecast products for the southwestern U.S. and Northwestern Mexico during the heart of our 'monsoon' season (one of my topics of research). It was really a fantastic experience, I believe, for each of us. Guillermo and Cesar expressed a great deal of interest in one day attending the University of Arizona. I really think they would be valuable additions to the Arizona student body.

Presently, I am continuing my visits to classrooms here in the Tucson area. My focus is still Spanish-speaking students with very limited English skills. However, I have expanded my talks to include elementary school children. In this talks, I focus on some simple classroom experiments that can be related to atmospheric phenomena. I will also continue giving talks at the middle and high school levels. In January, I hope to return to the Biosphere 2 to give climate lectures as I did last year. However, I am still waiting for the invitation!

For the summer, I plan to again invite local high school students to participate in my outreach program over the summer. I may also return to Culiacan, Sinaloa to give another talk and, if I am lucky, attract some interested Mexican students to come to the U of A.

Cohen, Barbara

Barbara Cohen has been awarded a two-year Space Grant Fellowship, co-sponsored by the Department of Planetary Sciences.

Barbara reports:
I am a fifth-year PhD student whose research focuses on using noble gas isotope dating techniques to study lunar and other extraterrestrial materials. My Space Grant Fellowship activities for the next two years will revolve around interactive public outreach. I am continuing my rewarding experience with the Space Grant Science Speakers program and hope to increase publicity and use of this program. I will also be working with the Flandreau Planetarium and Science Center on the U of A campus in order to gain experience in exhibit design and public activities in a museum setting. Additionally, I keep my ears open for unique opportunities focused on women and girls in science, such as this fall's WISE booth at KidsFest 97, and the Tucson Girl Scouts' Professional Day.

Finn, Rose

Rose Finn received a two-year Space Grant Fellowship, co-sponsored by Steward Observatory.

Rose reports:
My goal when applying for the UA/NASA Space Grant was to get involved with education outreach that focused on teacher training. I feel this is the best way to implement lasting changes since the teacher will be reaching students every day, year after year.

Originally I wanted to organize some sort of workshop for teachers that would emphasize hands-on, astronomy related activities. After talking with several people already working in education at Steward Observatory and NOAO, I discovered that a similar program already exits. The program is called Project ASTRO, and its goal is to form "ongoing partnerships between teachers and astronomers".

As a Project ASTRO participant, I attended a two-day training workshop and met my cooperating teacher (Ron Zwick, Earth Science Teacher, Cholla High School). We have planned a unit on the planets, We also plan to collaborate on other topics and activities that introduce students to the electromagnetic spectrum and infrared astronomy. In addition, we will organize a star party with the aid of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Club.

Ideally, this year will be used to develop several presentations and activities on the planets. This spring and next year I will be able to visit other schools and work with more teachers.

As part of my Space Grant, I will also work as a counselor for Astronomy Camp. There are several different camps throughout the year for beginning teenagers and adults, advanced teenagers and teachers. Again, the emphasis is learning astronomy by doing astronomy; the campers use the 40 and 60-inch telescopes on Mt. Lemmon and the 61-inch telescope on Mt. Bigelow for introductory observing in the beginning camps and research in the advanced.

Fall 1998 Update:

My goal when applying for the UA/NASA Spacegrant was to get involved with education outreach that focused on teacher training. I feel this is the best way to implement lasting changes since the teacher will be reaching students every day, year after year. As a result, teacher training is the thread that links the various programs and projects I am undertaking for the outreach component of my Spacegrant.

Originally I wanted to organize some sort of workshop for teachers that would emphasize hands-on, astronomy related activities. After talking with several people already working in education at Steward Observatory and NOAO, I discovered that a similar program already exits. The program is called Project ASTRO, and its goal is to form "ongoing partnerships between teachers and astronomers".

Last year as a Project ASTRO participant, myself and Mike Meyer worked with Ron Zwick, an Earth Science Teacher at Cholla High School. We collaborated on a unit on the planets, and activities included a liquid nitrogen presentation on the planets, a scale model of the solar system and an activity on remote sensing and the topology of Venus. I am participating in Project Astro again this year. My new cooperating teacher is Randy Palacio, a 7th grade teacher at Roskruge Middle School. During my first visit we went over the phases of the moon, and I am looking forward to visiting again to do activities on the seasons and Venus.

Over the summer, I worked with Ron Zwick and his students from the Cholla HS Summer Institute. For three weeks, we learned basic astronomy using the internet. Toward the end of the summer session, the students and Ron came to Steward Observatory for a night time observing session with the 21 inch telescope. It was the first time most of them had ever looked through a telescope - we even had some parents come!

As part of my spacegrant, I worked as a counselor for Astronomy Camp. The first camp I participated in was the Advanced Teen Camp, and the following week we had the Astronomy Camp for Educators. Working at the teacher camp was most in line with my spacegrant goal of long-term impact on education. I gave a talk on doing research in the classroom, and a large fraction of the teachers present were interested in trying to implement such a program. I gave them information on how to structure the timeline, set up tables, etc., but they wanted more details and examples. As a result, I am currently putting together some examples of projects my students completed when I was teaching, and I will make these documents available over theweb. I am compiling some web-based activities that teachers can use to introduce their students to research and possible topics to pursue in astronomy. I hope to give this talk again at next summer's Astronomy Camp for Educators, and I will be armed with a packet of explicit materials for implementing a research program into a middle or high school science curriculum.

Finally, during the next year, I will be working with astronomy professor Chris Impey, compiling the results of a survey he has conducted on science literacy. Chris has given this survey to the students in his Introductory Astronomy courses over the last ten years, and I am very interested in seeing what the results tell us about science literacy and secondary education.

Lewicki, Chris

Chris Lewicki has been awarded a two-year Space Grant Fellowship, co-sponsored by the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. Chris will serve as the Program Manager for the University of Arizona's Student Satellite Project.

Rech, Jason

Rech, Jason

Jason Rech was awarded a two-year Space Grant Fellowship, co-sponsored by the University of Arizona Department of Geosciences.

Jason Reports:

In 1997 NASA captured the imagination of the American public and the world with its discovery of "life" on Mars and with the amazing images of the surface of Mars. The announcement by NASA in March of 1997 of 'evidence of life on Mars' let many Americans think about the possibilities of life on other planets. The news motivated President Bill Clinton to announce the need for increased research of Mars and other planets in our solar system. In July of 1997 NASA presented Americans with spectacular images of the surface of Mars taken by the Imager for the Mars Pathfinder camera (IMP), built at The University of Arizona. These events placed the American space program back in the minds of American children and created an ideal environment for teaching science.

My own area of scientific study is in arid geomorpholgy, soil geochemistry, and geoarchaeology. I have conducted paleoenvironmental and geoarchaeological research in the semi-arid region of Israel (1992-1996), the Gobi Desert of Mongolia (1996-1997) and most recently in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.

The scientific outreach program that I am working on introduces science and the scientific method by focusing on the study of Mars and the use of arid environments on Earth to gain a better understanding of Mars. I am also using studies of arid environments to document global change on earth and discuss implications of anthropogenic effects on the environment. The program targets freshman and sophomore high school students in Tucson and surrounding areas and has two phases. The first phase of the program is to present a series of lectures to freshman and sophomore general science classes. This audience is composed of students who have mixed feelings towards science and different levels of understanding about the scientific method, since all high school students are required to complete these courses. The second phase of the program targets highly motivated students from these general science courses. Small groups of students are brought to the University of Arizona to participate in small laboratory exercises, and then taken out into the desert to get 'hands on' experience.

Fall 99 Update:

During the Fall semester, 1999, I feel that I made good progress with my NASA space-grant. Last year my outreach program was hindered by the difficulty in communicating with teachers and the problems with taking students out of the classroom. Despite a front-page add in the AMES newsletter, and brochures advertising my talks, few teachers contacted me. Last semester I developed ties with the Cooper Environmental Science Center (CESC) to hopefully overcome some of these difficulties.

CESC is an environmental camp, located in the Tucson Mountains, where mostly 4th graders go for either half-day or overnight field trips. This circumvents the problem of getting the children out into the field. To advertise my talks the staff at CESC mails my flyers out to teachers using CESC this year both at the beginning of the year and about a month before they come. Besides giving talks I am also preparing a geology field excursion that will be used even after my space-grant ends. I feel that CESC is presents many opportunities for space-grant fellows and that future space-grant fellows should utilize this facility if it fits within their outreach objectives.

Snyder, Keirith

Keirith Snyder was awarded a one-year Space Grant Fellowship, co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Planet Earth (ISPE).

Keirith described here Space Grant outreach project as follows:
I am currently working on A Ph.D. in Renewable Natural Resource. My investigations focus on the water-use relations of tree species and the link between hydrology and vegetation. Currently I work in riparian ecosystems on the upper San Pedro River in southeastern Arizona. My outreach program targets high school students in an outreach effort to increase their understanding hydrologic cycles, watershed processes, and to learn how multidisciplinary research is being done.

As a teaching assistant and as a student, I have seen the positive experience that field trips and exposure to on-going projects has on student interest and class participation. Therefore, I have established an interactive science field trip for students to a cooperative research project on the San Pedro River.

Resident of Arizona live in Semi-arid systems and find themselves facing many environmental issues related to the management of these systems and precious water resources. Multiple-use conflict over water allocation and groundwater pumping are constantly in the public eye. There is also increasing concern with protecting the fragile riparian gallery forests that provide structurally diverse vegetation for wildlife. My outreach program focuses on understanding how scientific information is collected about these systems in order to elucidate how management and global change may affect the productivity and sustainabilityof these ecosystems. This outreach program will target understanding the hydrologic cycle, basin water budget, and ecology of plant communities within riparian ecosystems.

The field trip site (Lewis Springs) is a semi-arid riparian ecosystem along the San Pedro River in southeastern Arizona and is part of the Semi-Arid Land Surface-Atmosphere Program (SALSA). SALSA is an interdisciplinary science program created by the USDA Agricultural Research Service (Tucson, AZ) involving 40 scientists. The objective is to investigate the natural and human induced impacts on the basin-wide water balance and ecological processes of the Upper San Pedro River Basin.

My outreach program begins with an informal discussion on site, where students are exposed to the hydrologic cycle, issues surrounding water management, and possible scenarios of global climate change. Emphasis will be placed on understanding how scientific progress is made (i.e. using the scientific method and observations to determine process). Aerial and remotely sensed imagery of the area are shown and the objectives of the SALSA project are explained. The next few stops emphasize hands on involvement where students use instruments to measure the climate, stream flow, soil conditions, and groundwater levels. This experience is to provide with them with a enhanced understanding of the components of the hydrologic cycle, by actually measuring them.

The next segment of the field trip at the Lewis Springs site is a hands-on involvement with the vegetation component of riparian ecosystems. Students will become familiar with the unique vegetation of these areas in contrast with the surrounding upland areas. Then species in different habitats are selected by the students to measure leaf water potential to determine which plants have to tolerate lower levels of water availability.

To finish up the day students walk to the top of hill to view the surrounding basin and discuss the possible impacts of different types of land use will have on the hydrology and of the watershed and the riparian ecosystem. In this basin, stark differences in land uses (e.g. grazing, agriculture) are visible in the aboveground imagery, and will be integrated into the discussion. Students will hopefully take back an increased understanding of the hydrologic cycle, components of the basin water balance, and an idea of how scientists measure these variables, and how these variables affect plant communities.

Visiting this site provides students with an interactive learning experience at an operational research site. This project incorporates many scientists of different disciplines and will provide students with a multi-faceted exposure to global change research and basin-scale watershed management. To assess the effectiveness of this outreach program the teachers pass out a short writing assignments asking students what they learned, and how they see the role of science in managing natural resources. I also ask for teacher feedback on the program, so I can incorporate changes into the curriculum as needed.

Turnbull, Maggie

Turnbull, Maggie

Maggie Turnbull has been awarded a two-year Space Grant Fellowship, co-sponsored by The University of Arizona's Department of Astronomy.

My primary motivation for choosing a career in astronomy is that although reason and instinct tell me there must be endless forms of life in the Universe, no one has actually proven the existence of life anywhere outside of the planet Earth. I also strongly believe that understanding the nature of life in the Universe will ultimately serve to uplift the health and harmony of human society. Lucky for me, the Arizona Space Grant Graduate Fellowship program makes it possible for graduate students to reach out to people of all ages and share what I'm learning at one of the most respected institutions for astronomy in the world.

In order to get in touch with some of the youngs minds in the neighborhood I have recently begun working with Stephen Patrick at Pistor Middle School through Tucson's Project ASTRO. The purpose of the program is to team professional scientists with enthusiastic teachers in bringing real scientific experiences to kids. I plan to visit Stephen's class twice a month and take part in activities ranging from hands-on lab projects, special lessons on my favorite astronomy topics, star gazing, and (historically accurate) storytelling. More than anything my hope is stir up and analyze ideas and create a non-threatening atmosphere where all questions are good questions.

The second part of my outreach objective involves reaching out to the adults in the community by setting up an series of informal no-prerequisite presentations on anything from stellar evolution to the marriage of science and religion. Depending on the topic, these gatherings could take place around a campfire while roasting marshmallows or in the classroom while watching NASA videos on space probes. Again, the goal is to encourage free and imaginative thinking supported by solid scientific reasoning. I hope to involve other scientists at the University of Arizona and set up one such series of meetings by next semester.

Summary of outreach for 1999-2000:

After last year's experience with Project ASTRO, I decided to use the feedback I got from students and take this year to improve several outreach presentations I've had in the works for a while. I chose three topics that seem to be of interest to students and fall within my range of knowledge:

  • The search for extraterrestrial intelligence
  • Planets detection
  • Stars and their evolution

In general, teachers have been very happy just to have me come and talk to the class, but I have found that it takes more than talking to really keep a group of students engaged. For instance, in order to start understanding how something works, students need to see it for themselves and participate in the discovery process. With that in mind, I took my basic presentations and added:

  • more revealing pictures and several movies (For instance the SOHO satellite team made a movie of the Sun, fading from optical wavelengths to ultraviolet to xrays. This helps students understand how light comes in many colors beyond what we see, and how different the universe looks in different "colors.").
  • real-life familiar examples and demonstrations (using car horns to demonstrate the doppler shift and rainbows to start a discussion about the spectrum and kick off a lesson on planet detection)
  • thinking assignments that don't involve any memorizing, but are based on the context of their own lives. What if we recieved a signal from another civilization? What are all the things we would need in order to survive on another planet? Can you invent a creature that might be able to survive on Mars? Jupiter?

Things help bring the material into a familiar or fun context. I tried them out in six classrooms of chemistry and physics students, and while the students were certainly interested, I still felt they weren't claiming what they were learning as "theirs." In order to participate in the discovery process, students need to stop being told about stuff and start finding things out for themselves. When I researched this concept a little more I discovered that the latest catch-phrase in science education is "inquiry-based learning," and that there are several groups here at the U of A trying to improve the science curriculum of local schools using this concept. At the end of last semester I introduced myself to Gail Burd, a professor in microbiology, who runs the "Science Connection."

Science Connection is a program that invites teachers to request a science connector to visit their classroom regularly--not to tell the students how things work, but to bring activities so the students can decide for themselves how things work. The goal of inquiry-based teaching is not to bring a lab with predetermined instructions, but to provide students with the materials they need to answer a question. Students can go as far as they wish with the activity, and they are encouraged to ask and answer questions of their own. I will start working with Gail this spring in a variety of capacities, including creating astronomy and physics activities, helping undergrads be better "connectors," being a connector myself, and evaluating the inquiry-based merit of science activities currently used by the Tucson School District.