A&T Hosts Undergraduate Earth-System Researchers

A group of 11 undergraduates, selected in a nationwide competition, are researching the movement of hurricanes, design of small-satellite systems, environmental impacts of fracking, and other basic and applied earth systems science and engineering research at North Carolina A&T State University this summer.

They’re taking part in the second summer of the National Science Foundation-Research Experiences for Undergraduates program on Collaborative Earth System Science. The students come from as far as Colorado, New Jersey and New York and locally from East Carolina University, North Carolina State University, UNC Asheville, UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro.

“Unlike traditional REU sites, where students work with only one faculty mentor on a specific topic, our projects involve interdisciplinary teams of faculty members from many academic departments,” says Dr. Solomon Bililign, leader of the project and professor of physics.

The departments include chemistry; electrical engineering; energy and environmental systems; management; marketing, transportation and supply chain; mathematics; physics; and the department of nanoengineering at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering.

“The program attracts very high-quality students to N.C. A&T and has helped recruit students to our physics graduate program,” Bililign says. Two of the 2013-14 undergraduates have graduated and joined the physics master’s program.

The NSF undergraduate research program also hosts A&T students for an academic-year experience. Four students from N.C. A&T participated in 2014-15 academic year. Up to five will join the program for 2015-16.

Topics for this summer’s 10-week session include numerical modeling of tropical cyclones’ behavior in shallow water; Earth-observation missions for small-satellite systems; and assessment of the public’s perception of fracking and other laboratory based atmospheric sciences research.

The program provides opportunities for undergraduates with backgrounds in physical science, engineering, and social science to work in interdisciplinary groups on a problem that reflects a complex, real-world situation related to atmospheric modeling and the use of weather and climate models, sensor development and evaluation, and remote sensing. It also explores the inherent tradeoffs between environmental protection and economic growth.

A particular strength of the N.C. A&T model is its partnering with federal labs to provide advanced research, educational and professional development opportunities for undergraduates. Labs affiliated with the program are the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration labs in Boulder, Colorado, and Asheville, North Carolina; the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado; and the National Institute of Aeronautics in Newport News, Virginia.

Along with Bililign, faculty members involved in the project are Dr. Shyam Aravamudhan, Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering; Dr. Zerihun Assefa, chemistry; Dr. William Edmonson, electrical engineering; Dr. Kathryn Kisska-Schulze, management; Dr. Yuh-Lang Lin, physics and energy and environmental systems; Dr. Liping Liu, mathematics; Dr. Ademe Mekonnen, energy and environmental systems; Dr. Yevgenii Rastigejev, mathematics; Dr. Keith Schimmel, energy and environmental systems; and Dr. George Stone, marketing, transportation and supply chain.