Students Navigate CIMES & HMEI 2021 Virtual Internships

Monday, Jul 12, 2021

For the second year in a row, AOS and GFDL hosts have adjusted summer internships under the sponsorship of the Cooperative Institute for Modeling the Earth System (CIMES) and the High Meadows Environmental Institute (HMEI) to meet the continued reality of the pandemic. As a result, the 8-10 week 2021 internship program is a virtual experience for all interns.

The CIMES Research Internship Program, initiated in 2016 under the Program’s predecessor CICS, is designed to broaden participation of historically underrepresented groups in Earth system sciences, bridging the gap between NOAA-GFDL, the University, and the wider academic community.

Having learned a lot about virtual connection and collaboration over the past year, the interns, together with their hosts and mentors, were set up for success this summer – armed with first-hand experience, navigating the remote experience with a bit of ingenuity and flexibility. It is particularly important for CIMES interns to have comparable learning opportunities as on-location internships, since they may not have similar opportunities available to them at their home institution or elsewhere.

Following the success of last summer’s internship program, the 2021 interns and their hosts have once again created an online community through a slack channel and participated in interactive, virtual climate science tutorials, from different GFDL and AOS scientists, and informal video-conference social gatherings. These activities are important to ensure that the students’ virtual experiences are not isolating, and foster an environment of community building. The intention is for the interns to expand their network and develop professional skills, as well as focus on their individual research projects under the guidance of their hosts. The internships are oftentimes a transformative experience for the students, who hail from a variety of ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds and universities from around the country, representing varied academic interests and experiences. “Once again, we have a great group of interns, who are bringing their unique perspectives and enthusiasm to learn and applying it to research in earth system science,” said CIMES Associate Director Sonya Legg.

Spanning a range of research conducted at GFDL, the remote CIMES summer projects include Validating Ocean Surface Mixed Layer Variability in GFDL’s OM4, conducted by Kanoe Aiu (Stanford University) under the mentorship of Brandon Reichl, Alistair Adcroft, and Stephen Griffies; On the Structure of Extreme Winter Storms in the Greater New York conducted by Victor Araya (St. Cloud University, MN) under the mentorship of Xiaosong Yang; Evaluating the Impacts of Initial Conditions on Hurricane Movement in the High-Resolution Global Models, conducted by Tyler Barbero (University of California, San Diego) under the mentorship of Jan-Huey Chen; Forecasting Estuarine and Coastal Salinity to Improve Fisheries Management and Aquaculture Productivity, conducted by Blaise Enama (Hunter College) under the mentorship of Andrew Ross and Charles Stock; Diurnal Cycles over the Maritime Continent, conducted by Stella Heflin (University of Arizona Honors College), who was recruited through the CIMES internship and is being supported by NOAA-EPP, under the mentorship of Lucas Harris and Kun Gao; Modeling Tabular Iceberg Evolution, conducted by Nuzhat Khan (Hunter College) under the mentorship of Alex Huth, Alistair Adcroft, and Olga Sergienko; and ENSO: Revealing Ocean-Related El Nino Southern Oscillation Dynamics in Climate Model, conducted by Zouberou Sayibou (Bronx Community College) under the mentorship of Maike Sonnewald and Aparna Radhakrishnan.

Mackenzie Blanusa (University of Connecticut) opted for a spring 2021 internship. She was hosted by Aparna Radhakrishnan, Chris Blanton, and Raphael Dussin on her project, A CMIP6 Multimodel Analysis of Ocean Heat Content Using Scalable and Efficient Open-Source Software.

Two HMEI interns are also working remotely this summer with AOS hosts under the auspices of HMEI’s Environmental Internship Program, which offers Princeton undergraduate students the opportunity to complement their academic course of study with hands-on research and project experiences during the summer months.

Alina Chen ’24 is working with Graeme MacGilchrist and Alexander Haumann, exploring interannual variability of primary production in the Southern Ocean sea-ice zone, and Ben Buchovecky ’23 is working with Mitchell Bushuk, Graeme MacGilchrist, and Alexander Haumann to address the question, Is the Antarctic sea-ice spring bloom predictable?

Undeterred by the physical distance, the students are engaging frequently with their hosts and participating in remote seminars and events, according to Legg.

The CIMES Associate Director acknowledges the enhanced efforts made by the volunteer mentors and hosts once again this year to not only navigate in this virtual environment, but also to expand diversity and increase participation in the climate-related sciences. “All of our hosts go above and beyond in terms of their commitment to building and supporting diverse talent in the climate sciences, beginning with the recruitment and selection process. They are also central to the personal connections that oftentimes continue long after the internship ends. This summer that commitment also extends to answering numerous questions via the intern slack channel.”

The summer of ’21 will be remembered for many things and no less so for the way the interns and their mentors stepped up to make the internships meaningful and mutually productive, despite the less than optimal circumstances.

In-person internships are slated to return in 2022.