NASA MPOWIR Speaker Series Participant Reflections

Rym Msadek, GFDL NOAA/ Princeton University

JPL visit April 18-21, 2011

I had the great pleasure to be invited this spring to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to give a seminar and meet with Earth scientists who share my interest in climate variability. I was kindly hosted by Dr. Tony Lee who is the Oceans and Ice group supervisor. My day started with an exciting tour of JPL’s museum, which provided me a great overview of the laboratory’s activities, as well as its past accomplishments and future projects. I had the chance to visit the Spacecraft Assembly Facility and watch JPL engineers assembling the mobile robot that will be launched on Mars on 2012. As a child whose dream was to become an astronaut I have to say I was thrilled to be able to witness this moment.

I presented my research on decadal variability and predictability of climate based on my analysis of ocean-atmosphere coupled models. My talk was very well received and followed by interesting questions and discussion. The rest of the day mainly consisted on one-to-one meetings with scientists of the ocean and sea-ice group, discussing common research interests related to the role of ocean circulation in climate. I was very interested in learning more about JPL’s achievements in estimating the global three-dimensional state of the ocean (the ECCO project), the challenge of assimilating observational data in oceanic models and the continuing efforts to go toward higher resolution to solve oceanic eddies.

Besides the scientific constructive exchanges, my host informed me about the job opportunities and careers at JPL. From his enthusiasm and my own positive impression after that one-day visit, I could picture how JPL can provide a very good environment to achieve an effective work/life balance. I am very grateful to both MPOWIR and JPL for giving me this unique opportunity to widen my professional network and get thoughtful feedback on my work.

Rachael Mueller, Oregon State University

Goddard visit May 3-5, 2011

NASA’s MPOWIR speaker series provided me with the opportunity in May, 2011, to travel to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and spend two days giving a presentation and meeting with several leading scientists in or around my field.  It was an amazing opportunity.  Sirpa Hakkinen hosted the visit, and she went out of her way arranging various meetings and escorting me around the area during the visit.   Her efforts and the coordination of Lisa Gerber and Sarah Clem (Duke) allowed for a well planned and productive visit.

During the first day of this two-day visit, I presented my research on the influence of tides and ocean circulation on ice shelf basal melt beneath the Larsen C Ice Shelf, Antarctica.  The intimate seminar environment allowed for an engaged audience with various thoughtful questions asked throughout the presentation.  The experience was educational in itself for allowing me my first opportunity to  present an hour-long seminar to a scientific group outside of my committee and college, and it allowed me to reflect on ways in which I could improve future seminars.  As it was, the talk seemed well-received and inspired many great conversations to follow.

I particularly valued the ability to meet with several scientists before and after my talk.  These included: Sirpa Hakkinen, Michele Rienecker, Bob Bindschadler, Thorsten Markus, Kelly Brunt, Jay Zwally, Claire Parkinson, Christopher Shuman, and Sophie Nowicki.  Each conversation was uniquely insightful and much appreciated.  Once again, I discovered lessons for how I may be able to better maximize this time in future visits.  For example, I feel as though I could have done a more thorough investigation of the research strengths of those with whom I visited so that I could have been more productive in our discussions during the time that we were given.  This revelation occurred to me after returning home and realizing that there was topic of shared interest with one of the scientists that I never engaged in our conversation because I wasn’t aware of it at the time.   If I am given a similar opportunity in the future, I will be more proactive about asking for the names of those with whom I will meet a full week or two prior to meeting to allow me the time to preempt discussions.

All in all, the NASA MPOWIR speaker series was beneficial for allowing me the opportunity to learn about Goddard community and to present my research to them.  I left my visit feeling both inspired by the conversations that I had and grateful for the gained insights for how I might better contribute to discussions in similar experiences that I may encounter in the future.

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