A government shutdown destabilizes federal agencies that are essential for national security and safety, public health, and economic stability. On day 20 and counting of the federal shutdown, the damage on U.S. science has continued. A lot of attention has been focused on several science stories, such as:
What will the larger implications be once the shutdown ends? It is hard to say until we know exactly how long the shutdown will go, but each day is growing more and more expensive.
The shutdown is already having real-time consequences in 2019. Over 800,000 federal workers are furloughed or working without pay, many of whom are researchers at agencies like NIST, NOAA, NSF, and USDA. Since employees are banned from working, let alone opening emails, all work has stalled.
This may not seem like a big deal, but it is one small example how the shutdown is affecting the scientific integrity of data collection. I hope that an agreement is made soon so people can get back to work and science progress will no longer be stalled.
After years of schooling, I figured I knew how to manage academic stress. However, as I spent the last month preparing for candidacy, I encountered a new kind of stress: preparing for my prospectus defense.
For those not familiar, the prospectus is the transition from Ph.D. student to Ph.D. candidate. The exact requirements depend on program and university; for my candidacy, I wrote a paper outlining the work I've completed, the research I aim to do in my dissertation, and the timeline to complete the work. I presented this research plan in front of a 5-member committee and then answered any questions regarding my research or anything I have learned in graduate school coursework.
At this point in my research, I know what I don't know. While I prepared exhaustively, the perfectionist in me was never completely satisfied with my preparation. However, I did eventually figure out how to better take care of myself during this period in my life. I hope these methods will work for me again when I defend my dissertation in a few years and maybe for a few others who are learning to manage their own stress while in graduate school.
1. Make time for friends and family.
A few days before my defense, a friend I had not seen in years was visiting Baltimore. I drove 45 minutes in the snow to go see her. At the time, taking so much time out of my day from studying caused a little anxiety, but once we were hanging out, I'm so happy I made time. I am so thankful for all my friends and family who were so supportive during this time for me--from those who helped to edit and listen to my presentation to my family praying for me to do well. I am lucky to have such considerate and understanding people in my life. Find your cheerleaders and tell them how you feel! Many people who have not been to graduate school do not understand what you are going through, so share your story.
2. Adjust your schedule.
Normally, I go to the gym during lunch or after the workday. During the preparation for my prospectus defense, I found myself skipping the gym altogether. Exercise has been shown to relieve stress and boost endorphins, so I knew it was important to not completely forgo physical activity. Instead, I decided to go to 7:15 AM fitness classes (note: this is something I did twice throughout ~3.5 years of graduate school). While this is seemingly small, exercise has been the best way for me to manage my stress and anxiety and necessary for me. Figure out what you need to do to manage stress and make it a priority.
3. Believe in yourself.
Imposter syndrome is something many graduate students deal with, including me. No one knows your research better than you, so take ownership and pride in the work you have done! It is easy to be overly harsh with yourself, but think of where you were on day 1 of graduate school. While there are certainly things you may wish you did differently, the knowledge you gain from doing something wrong improves your knowledge and defines your journey. After all, we're all human and learning from our mistakes is the best way to improve.
In case you're interested, here are a few resources I came across:
Palmer, K. (July 2017) Is it still taboo to take a mental health sick day? BBC News.
Harrington, K. (May 2017). Being proactive about mental health during your PhD: a very short guide. NatureJobs Blog.
What will you be doing on Nov. 6, 2018? If you answered, “Voting in the midterm elections,” you can skim the rest of this article.
For everyone else, read on! It’s important to understand why it is important vote, where you are registered to vote and how to request an absentee ballot, if needed.
While in college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I always voted absentee because I wanted a say in local elections in my hometown of Oshkosh, WI. I was particularly interested in participating in local elections because of ongoing education reform in Oshkosh and how it would affect my younger sibling’s education. Now, as a graduate student in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UMD, I vote because it is one of the easiest ways to be involved in civic engagement.
In 2008, 1.7 million people between the ages of 18 and 24 were not registered to vote—mostly because they did not know how to register or missed important deadlines. In particular, students, new to voting and to college face additional hurdles like understanding how and where to register and if identification is needed to vote or not.
Young adults ages 18-29 comprised about 21 percent of the eligible voting population in 2014, but only 17 percent of those eligible voters actually voted. Although voter turnout is typically higher in years of a presidential election, voting in local elections has a larger impact on your day-to-day life. For example, local policies such as income tax, reproductive rights and education reform are decided at the provincial level. All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats of the U.S. Senate will be contested. Additionally, 39 state and territorial governorships and other state and local elections will be decided on. In Maryland, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is up for reelection, as well as Democratic Senator Ben Cardin.
Additionally, local elections are more likely decided by a margin. Even in the June 2018 Maryland primary, multiple elections were close. For example, in Prince George’s County, Rodney Streeter beat out Krystal Oriadha by 31 votes in the District 7 council race and Sydney Harrison won by 55 votes in District 9 over Tamara Davis Brown. The line “my vote does not count” is not true in local elections.
In order to vote in Maryland, you need to be a Maryland resident who has lived in Maryland for at least 6 months and registered by Oct. 16, 2018. If you register to vote with your University of Maryland address, your assigned polling place is STAMP Student Union, open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. on Election Day. To check if you are registered in Maryland, visit: https://voterservices.elections.maryland.gov/VoterSearch. To request a Maryland absentee ballot, your request needs to be received by the state by Oct. 30 if you want a mail or fax ballot, or by Nov. 2 for a downloaded ballot.
If you are from out of state, you will need to register for an absentee ballot. The deadlines for requesting an absentee ballot vary state to state.To check your state’s guidelines, visit Rock the Vote or Vote411.org.
As an international student, your voting opportunities are more limited in the U.S., but you can still express your right by participating in university elections, such as voting for student government association representatives or other leaders in student organizations. Additionally, noncitizens are allowed to cast ballots in municipal elections in College Park. The next City Election will be Nov. 5, 2019.
Additional resources are available through the University of Maryland’s Terps Vote coalition at http://umddepartments.orgsync.com/org/terpsvote/home. Terps Vote has resources about candidates, other dates and deadlines to keep in mind, as well as TurboVote, an online system allowing college students to easily register to vote in any state. Additionally, as part of the Freedom to Vote Act, all state universities including the University of Maryland has a direct ‘Register to Vote’ link on the registration website.
I urge everyone, and particularly students, to vote this upcoming midterm election. Casting a ballot is the best way to have a say in who will represent you and how they will address issues that matter to you. As President Lyndon Johnson said, “The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men.”
Please, make your voice heard this November.
On the first day, the special guest speaker was Prof. Yuan Lee, the first Taiwanese to win a Nobel Prize in 1986 in Chemistry, and spoke about the achievements and challenges of atmospheric chemists. He quoted Sherwood Roland, another Nobel Prize recipient famous for his work understanding how chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) deplete stratospheric ozone:
I think this quote motivates scientists to continue to work hard explaining their research to the general public and policymakers. While the ozone hole is well on its way towards recovery, new environmental problems such as global warming necessitate atmospheric chemist's attention. Scientists need to be able to effectively communicate the importance of their research to properly inform decision makers whether that be in congress, at school, at home, or at work.
Particularly notable during this conference was the emphasis in encouraging early career scientists. From special talks, catered lunches, and other special events, IGAC/iCACGP strengthened our science communication skills and provided valuable resources in meeting both other early career scientists as well as established scientists in the field. I found the early career lunch with established scientists exceptionally useful. I find it hard to speak to established scientists on my own and having a space to do so with other students was a fantastic opportunity. It was also helpful to receive career advice about post-doc opportunities and learn about other atmospheric chemistry programs across the globe.
Another highlight of the early career scientist program was the early career special talk by Prof. Lee. Speaking candidly, he told us stories as a kid when he chose to play baseball in Taiwan so he could get out of school earlier or talks with his mother about becoming a Nobel Laureate before he became one. Lastly, he encouraged us to make the world a better place and to "dare to be different."
While I do not have time to discuss all what I have learned at IGAC/iCACGP, I will leave you with some of my takeaways:
Talk after talk, speakers during IGAC/iCACGP always thanked their students and peers who contributed to their work. Science is not done alone and you need a strong and supportive community to help you along. In a time of increasing environmental dilemmas, I believe this is especially true.
Attending IGAC/iCACGP has definitely been the highlight of my graduate career thus far. I am thankful for the travel support I was awarded through the University of Maryland Graduate School and my department. While international conferences are expensive, I think participating as a student helped me to gain potential career perspectives as I come closer to graduating and (hopefully?) finding a job/post-doc.
I spent last week at the 2018 joint 14th international Commission on Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Pollution (iCACGP)/15th International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC) conference in Takamatsu, Japan. I'll post more about the conference at a later date, but wanted to give an update on Category 2 Typhoon Trami currently affecting Japan.
I am very thankful that the iCACGP/IGAC conference regularly updated attendees about the status of the typhoon. We had several days to think about changing our travel plans, contact airlines or railways, or extend hotel reservations. These regular updates were very appreciated as I considered altering my personal travel plans after the conference.
After leaving Takamatsu on Saturday, Sept. 29, I arrived in Hiroshima. The original plan was to visit the Itsukushima Shrine on the island of Miyajima, but I decided to stay in Hiroshima since a ferry ride did not seem smart or fun in high winds. Hiroshima was expected to experience less severe weather than Kyoto or Tokyo.
Saturday night in Hiroshima was extremely dark and rainy. I walked around the Peace Memorial Park and was absolutely drenched by the time I returned to the hotel. However, it was not windy at all and did not observe any flooding in the areas I walked.
Hiroshima on Sunday, Sept. 30 was much more windy and rainy. At times, I needed to close my umbrella or it would have been blown away. However, I still was able to visit two art museums during the day, including Hiroshima Museum of Art and the Hiroshima Prefecture Museum of Art.
By the afternoon, winds began to pick up and rainfall was more heavy. Japan Rail suspended services so I decided to stay another night in Hiroshima. I will depart early tomorrow for Kyoto once the trains resume service.
Hiroshima will continue to experience high winds and heavy rain over the next several hours. However, compared to islands in Japan or areas in the direct path of the storm, the potential for severe damage is less. I'm hoping Typhoon Trami or other severe weather will not affect the rest of my trip.
With the end of the fiscal year looming, appropriators have made fast progress, with eight bills approved by the House and nine by the Senate. However, none of these bills have been finalized by legislators from both the House and the Senate.
Science funding is essential for supporting basic scientific research that makes scientific and technological advances possible. In an effort to engage my community at the University of Maryland with elected representatives, I hosted a congressional letter writing event asking representatives for strong support for science in FY19.
Undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of departments attended the event in the STAMP Student Union. In total, 40 letters to 8 different state's congressional representatives were written about science funding in FY19 including Texas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
It was really exciting to see University of Maryland students participate in contacting their congressional representatives since many had never done so before. Students wrote about how basic science has impacted their life, as well as important data sources influential in his/her own research. Participants also learned about the federal budget process.
Special thanks to University of Maryland's Graduate Student Government and the American Geophysical Union for support that made this event possible.
It's that time of year again: back to school. For some of you, it's an exciting (and terrifying) time to start a new graduate program. For others, like myself, continuing a graduate program for the past several years is nothing new. I started my 21st year of school today (side comment: HOW?!?!) Regardless of where you are in graduate school, I've compiled a very short list of advice for those newbies out there.
1. Be open to new opportunities and working with new people.
Upon entering a new program, learning about new opportunities and working with new people is fairly easy. However, I think it is fairly easy to enter a program knowing exactly what you want to research and who you want to work with. The first year of graduate school, while challenging, is the time to explore your interests. Take advantage of being new to ask questions! While it may feel like people are judging you for "stupid" questions, this is nearly never the case. Most professors I've met have always been more than happy (and frankly, very excited) to talk about their research with students. There are no stupid questions!
2. It's never too early to network
Even if you do not know what you want to do after the Ph.D., making connections is extremely important in life after the Ph.D. If you do not have a website or LinkedIn, make one. No business cards? Print them yourself. Many graduate programs and/or advisors do not emphasize professional development enough, so make sure you are in charge of your growing network. Many universities offer workshops on professional development, including networking skills at conferences, that are essential. For example, I presented my research at the University of Maryland's Graduate Career Pathways conference last year. It was a great opportunity to network and communicate my research with others at Maryland that I do not normally interact with.
For me, graduate school has been an exciting time to explore my interests in a field more deeply. While certainly challenging and stressful, I think these pieces of advice is a great start to beginning the new school year!
I entered college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison thinking I wanted to become a flight surgeon. Then I decided I would become an engineer, followed by my decision to become a music teacher and eventually a nurse. Figuring out what major and career to choose is a difficult decision for most students and I was no exception. I feel like many atmospheric scientists I know have always realized they wanted to be in this field. But what if you don't know?
I was pre-med through most of college, but it was not until I started undergraduate research that I began to realize that other paths may be available. My first research experience was in a psychology lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. My job was to watch videos of a dad and pup mice interacting and recording how much time they spent doing certain behaviors--cuddling, running on the wheel, retrieving the pup to the nest, etc. I spent a semester watching ~5-8 hours of these videos a week. I realized psychology was not for me.
However, it's important to note that my undergraduate bachelor degree is in biology, environmental studies, and global health, which is not very close to what I currently study at UMD. In order to start graduate studies, I needed to take more math classes in addition to my degree (Calc 3 and ODE/Linear Algebra). While I do not regret studying different topics as an undergraduate, it was challenging to transition to a very math-heavy discipline. Luckily, I found very supportive friends and mentors that helped me through.
There is no one reason why I chose to become a scientist. Rather, it was a combination of positive childhood experiences, exploring my passions, and working with extraordinary mentors that helped me decide what was right for me. I'm extremely thankful for the opportunities I've had to explore my interests and further study in my field.
I grew up in Oshkosh, WI, the headquarters of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). EAA is an international group of recreational pilots and aviation enthusiasts. During the annual gathering, EAA AirVenture, Oshkosh becomes the world's busiest airport, surpassing O'Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Part of the timing of this blog post is because AirVenture is happening this week in Oshkosh. Sadly, I cannot attend, but I thought I would write about how aviation influenced my decision to become a scientist.
My mom's involvement in aviation is what led me to experience multiple EAA Young Eagles rides. The Young Eagles program was founded in 1992 to give kids ages 8-17 their first free airplane ride and in 2016 flew their 2 millionth Young Eagle. I had Young Eagles rides in a Cessna 180, Piper Archer, and in a hot air balloon! During these flights, we learned about the preflight inspection, reviewed aeronautical charts, and I got a chance to fly!
For those unfamiliar, flying is expensive (!!!), so I was not one of those kids who learned to fly before learning to drive. Flying lessons were not financially feasible while I was in college, so I became involved in a student organization at the University of Wisconsin called Badger Aviators. Badger Aviators promotes aviation by hosting weekly ground school (the "book-knowledge" of flying), going on fly-outs, and career talks. I found any way to stay involved in aviation without actually knowing how to fly.
In summer 2014, I was awarded the EAA/GoPro "Go Fly" flight training scholarship. In my application video, I explain why I want to "go fly" and at the end, fly around as a bird. While possibly one of the most humiliating things I have done, it got the desired outcome. Take a look at one of the GoPro videos I made while completing my flight training!
I am extremely fortunate to have such wonderful opportunities to become involved in aviation from a young age. My passion for aviation is what ultimately led me to graduate school at the University of Maryland, where I fly as a scientist on research aircraft. While I cannot fly the twin engine Cessna we operate (I do not have my multi-engine rating), I have the knowledge about flight planning, weather briefing, and aircraft operations that is very useful while working as a scientist. Unfortunately I am not currently flying as a private pilot, but I have plans to earn my instrument rating once I complete graduate school. I hope to come back to WSYS as a mentor again to inspire young women to dream big, just as I was taught.
As I previously mentioned, I'm a Ph.D. student in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science (AOSC) at the University of Maryland (UMD). I am in the atmospheric chemistry research group, mostly focusing on how ozone in the troposphere forms in the North China Plain, the region surrounding the lower Yellow River. However, part of my job as a graduate student is helping to collect air pollution observations on a twin-engine Cessna (there's pictures of N7875E all over this blog!) in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. region. We measure a lot of different air pollutants, aerosol properties, and meteorological information:
How do we decide where to measure? Each research flight has a specific flight plan determined by the goals of the flight. For the June 30 flight, for example, we aimed to measure differences in ozone over the water and land. We took measurements in coordination with the Ozone Water-Land Environmental Study (OWLETS-2), which was observing air pollution on Hart Miller Island (photos and video in the above YouTube clip). Our flight plan was designed to cover a broad range of water and land surfaces around the Chesapeake Bay region.
When do we decide to fly? Scientists at the University of Maryland work with air quality forecasters at the Maryland Department of the Environment and other agencies to decide when to fly. Since there is limited funding available to do these research flights, it's important that we measure on the worst air quality days. The synoptic setup also largely determines when we fly since we are looking for particular weather conditions, such as consistent winds. We typically fly ~3 hours nonstop (the maximum duration for our aircraft with our instrument and people load), or up to 6-8 hours if we refuel.
Where do you fly? The aircraft is based at a small airport about 20 minutes way from the University of Maryland. Our flights are largely in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. region as part of the Regional Atmospheric Measurement Modeling and Prediction Program (RAMMPP). Because of the restricted airspace in and around D.C., we are unable to fly into the Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ). Sometimes we fly into Pennsylvania or West Virginia when investigating greenhouse gases in a study called Fluxes of Atmospheric Greenhouse Gases in Maryland (FLAGG-MD). However, we do have opportunities to fly elsewhere. For instance, this summer, we are conducting flights in Long Island Sound and participating in the Long Island Sound Tropospheric Ozone Study (LISTOS). This area is of particular interest because while air pollution levels in the United States have been steadily declining, the New York City metropolitan area has continued to violate past and current air quality standards.
Why use aircraft to study air pollution? While aircraft observations can be costly, airplanes have the ability to capture pollution in a spatial and temporal manner that other means of observations (satellites, ground observations) are limited by. Since air pollution at the surface and aloft are not the same, the use of aircraft can be particularly insightful when trying to understand local air pollution. However, many scientists utilize other measurements in addition to aircraft observations, as well as models in air quality studies. Government agencies, like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), also operate research aircraft for myriad research purposes.
Who flies on the aircraft? Typically we have 2-3 people onboard the aircraft: 1 pilot and 1-2 scientists. The more people on the plane, the less fuel we can carry and thus the shorter we can fly. Scientists from the University of Maryland operate instruments aboard the aircraft, including graduate students like me!