Graduate Fellows 1999

Graduate Research Fellows
Alberding, Jonathan

Alberding, Jonathan

Jonathan Alberding, co-sponsored by the University of Arizona Department of Physics.

During the last semester of my outreach program(s), Program ACCESS and the Student Satellite Project achieved the following landmarks. Program ACCESS achieved a successful first summer camp, which was covered in The Arizona Daily Star. Differentially Abled Middle School students were introduced to disciplines such as the Mathematics of music, the Physics behind Star Wars, and the researching of dinosaurs on the World Wide Web. The students also learned the physiology of arteries and veins, visited a clean room, and used bananas frozen in liquid nitrogen to drive nails through boards. In addition, Program ACCESS provided 6-7 local high school teachers with enrichment grants, one of which helped fund a wetlands project at Palo Verde High School that was featured on local news reports. Program ACCESS funded an additional three enrichment grants this year.

The Student Satellite Project successfully recruited a new Systems Engineering Mentor, Dr. Terry Bahill, and recently recruited its second Systems Engineer, Christiano Abadi, SIE graduate student with a BS in Electrical Engineering. Christiano's background will complement the SSP administration nicely. A Systems Engineering plan was decided upon, with the three main goals to be; one, defining interfaces between teams. Two, creation of a design database for ease of monitoring the overall satellite design, and three, budgeting of necessary resources such as mass, power, and volume. SSP was also included in a UNESS proposal to NASA, which, if successful, would help ensure financial solubility for the project. If the proposal is successful, a sea change in SSP will occur, with SSP's current projects moving to another platform (most likely the International Space Station). The current satellite design will then be modified to perform a radio occultation experiment to measure amounts of water vapor in the stratosphere. This experiment will be performed with Principal Investigator Dr. Ben Herman of the Atmospheric Sciences department of the University of Arizona and under the tutelage of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. SSP also is completing an update of its website, Features include new information about events in the project, updated links, new student distribution and organization charts, and soon new documentation and archival sections. Many team websites have also been updated. SSP's next project is to have a pre-review this semester, and use this opportunity to begin to prepare for a Preliminary Design Review (PDR), one of the first milestones on the path to launching the actual satellite.

The Student Satellite Project has been hard at work attempting to prepare for a Preliminary Design Review (PDR), where the students essentially show that their main design parameters will meet their design requirements. This is the next phase in the satellite design process. The PDR, if successful, will give SSP, in addition to the main idea of giving students real-life experience, a basic design with which to approach potential sponsors and benefactors. SSP hopes to perform its PDR in the Spring of 2001. Program ACCESS continues to perform its summer camp and laboratory design review, in addition to its other responsibilities. Thanks to savings within the program, a fourth year of ACCESS looks to be possible.

Beyer, Ross

Beyer, Ross

Ross Beyer, co-sponsored by the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory.

My advisor Alfred McEwen, and I are involved with the Mars Orbital Camera (MOC) on the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft. We work with high-resolution images of the Martian surface trying to understand the history of flood lavas on the surface and the nature of layering in the Valles Marineris Canyon system. I'm also involved with using MOC images to help plan future landing sites for missions like the2003 Mars Exploration Rovers.

I have worked with Jay Melosh to put some crater computation algorithms on the web. We have created a web site that will compute the crater size made by a given impactor and impact conditions, as well as the reverse problem of computing the projectile size given the crater diameter. This web site has been very useful for many people around the Planetary Sciences Department and was mentioned in the February 2000 issue of Astronomy Magazine.

Additionally I have taught a class on how to write HTML for beginners, a few times. Additionally, Susan Brew and I have been working on redesigning and streamlining the UA Spacegrant web pages, what you see is a result of our work, we hope you like it.

In the future, Laszlo Keszthelyi and I will be assembling a web site that will contain images of terrestrial lava flows from in the field, aerial photography, and spacecraft imagery. These images will be compared to images of features on planets like Mars and Io that we believe are volcanic in origin. It will allow comparisons to be made on many scales and should be very interesting. Additionally, I am looking forward to giving some public lectures on the MOC/MGS mission.

Garzione, Carmala

Garzione, Carmala

Carmala Garzione, co-sponsored by The Institute for the Study of Planet Earth (ISPE):

I am a Ph.D. student in the Department of Geosciences. For my dissertation, I am studying the timing and mechanisms of uplift of the southern Tibetan Plateau by examination of the sedimentary fill of N-trending basins on the southern plateau. These grabens are believed to have formed as a result of gravitational collapse of the plateau following crustal thickening and uplift to its current elevation. Changes in south Asian climate as well as global climate have been attributed to uplift of the Himalaya and Tibetan plateau. Understanding the timing of uplift of this vast elevated region is critical to assessing the affect of the growth of large mountain belts on global climate.

Through my own research, I have become increasingly aware of the public's lack of understanding of the causes and effects of climate change. While climate change regularly appears in science news, the public's poor understanding of the scientific process not only makes it difficult to understand the causes of climate change, but impossible to critically evaluate arguments for or against a proposed cause. Because science-based issues frequently receive public vote, such as the use of C.A.P. water in Tucson, it is essential to increases the public's scientific literacy to develop the public's understanding of both global and community issues related to science.

In fall of 1999, I began an outreach program through Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) geared towards increasing scientific literacy among teachers, with an emphasis on Earth Science education. The goal of the program is to give teachers an understanding of the basic content of Earth Science and the scientific process so that teachers can better guide their students to participate in the scientific process. Through the DESERT Project () TUSD is currently restructuring science education at the K-8 level by incorporating more interactive and inquiry-based learning into the curriculum. My interest in working with teachers fits well within the TUSD plan because it is through the teachers that new curriculum is being introduced.

In the fall, I became familiar with the workings of the DESERT Project by participating in various functions of the program. I attended a learning forum with Middle school science teachers aimed at developing inquiry in the classroom, fostering group interaction, attaining closure, and assessing students' understanding of scientific concepts. I also participated in a teacher workshop aimed at introducing teachers to a "Models and Designs" science kit that they used in their classrooms last fall. On a weekly basis, I meet and interact with collaborative teachers (CTs), those that deliver the new curriculum and teaching techniques to teachers.

Last fall I developed a "Geology an Earth Science Through Inquiry" course for 5th through 8th grade teachers that I will teach over a 6 week period in late January and February. This class is designed to reinforce the teachers' understanding of the earth science content they are expected to teach in their classrooms as well as introduce techniques by which they can teach through inquiry. I will also run workshops on "teaching the scientific process" at several TUSD teacher conferences. Later in the Spring semester, I will work with several teachers in their classrooms as a general science liaison to the class.

Kipple, Allison

Kipple, Allison

Allison Kipple, co-sponsored by the University of Arizona Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

I became involved in outreach education as an undergraduate at the University of Colorado. It began innocently enough when I agreed to give tours of the aerospace facility where I worked. Some visiting teachers asked if I could help them beef up their space and technology units, and before I knew it I was completely immersed in outreach education - and loving it. In my last year as the volunteer outreach coordinator at the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, I gave space-related presentations and workshops to several thousand pre-college students. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, but I needed help!

Engineering students are pretty busy people. A lot of them also despise public speaking, so I had a tough time recruiting other students to help give outreach presentations. I also didn't have enough time to give appropriate support to those who did volunteer. In those hectic times I sketched out one possible solution which the Arizona Space Grant program has now supported - to offer a class on outreach education specifically tailored to the needs of engineering students. The course credit (with probable GPA boost) and transcript listing (looks good in an interview) will provide a practical justification for taking the class, to boost the more altruistic reasons for doing so. Students will additionally acquire valuable public speaking skills, keeping on that track of simultaneously working toward career goals and helping the community. During the class we'll discuss a variety of topics including: keys to a successful outreach presentation, phases in children's mental development, state education standards, and kindergarten crowd control. Several guest speakers will be brought into the class to elucidate particular topics. Over the course of the semester students will develop, test (with the class), and implement their own outreach programs.

In Colorado, I knew some fantastic teachers and prospective visiting speakers who would help make the outreach course a success. My first goal in implementing the class here at the University of Arizona was to meet the people active in outreach education here. I've been thoroughly impressed with the quality and amount of outreach which folks at this university are supporting. Now I need to jump in with my contribution. While I'm sketching out the course outline for Fall 2000, I'm also developing a new outreach program for my host department, electrical engineering. It's going to be a fun one - I hope you'll see it soon!

January 2000 Update:

One of my major goals for this year was to identify local teachers and university affiliates who would help make the planned engineering outreach course a success - both in terms of providing forums for the engineering students' programs and as guest lecturers in the class. I've attended teacher workshops where I've not only met highly-motivated teachers but also practicing engineers who've offered time and resources for the engineering outreach program. Through SAMEC, I've met a number of energetic individuals who are working through various university programs to improve education in our community. I'm genuinely impressed by the number of people involved and the quality of their work, and I look forward to working with them.

I gave a briefing on our plans for an outreach course at one SAMEC meeting, and I was very surprised to learn that two other groups had similar plans. Gail Burd of Molecular Biology has been offering a course titled "Science Connection" to undergraduates who plan to enter teaching careers. I'll be reviewing her class this spring. The recently-funded CATTS program will also be offering a similar class this spring. I'm happy to say that a fellow engineering student (and friend) was awarded a CATTS fellowship, and we'll be discussing what aspects of that program would be beneficial to ours.

In the meantime, I've been developing a new outreach presentation which is better suited for my host department of electrical engineering (previous presentations were space-related). It will be done by the end of January, and I think it will be educational and fun! Some Girl Scout troops are ready for the presentation when I'm finished, and I'll advertise it in the March SAMEC newsletter as well.

In the Fall 2000 semester, I took some science education courses (see in the hope of improving my outreach activities, and now I'm actually doing a PhD project in the field of science education. I have found the field of science education to be very interesting, and I have found education outreach to be highly rewarding. I hope that this fellowship will encourage more of you to become involved in these activities!

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.

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.