Students, faculty to exchange for summer research programs

For the second year, the Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence (CRC) will facilitate exchanges between students, faculty and research projects as part of its summer programs.

Eight students from the CRC’s education projects will be hosted by principal investigators (PIs) of research projects as part of the SUMmer Research Experience (SUMREX) Program. As part of the program, CRC Education & Workforce Development partners arrange for one or more students to visit the home institution of participating CRC Research PIs for a summer research internship lasting between six and 10 weeks. Key to the program’s success is making the best match between the student interns and the research PIs, so that the students have the opportunity to become fully immersed in a research project.

The program is already showing success: Felix Santiago, a graduate student in Civil Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, was hosted by Dr. Stephen Medeiros at the University of Central Florida and by Dr. Scott Hagen at Louisiana State University in a cooperative effort. He was recently awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship and will continue to work with Dr. Hagen at LSU in 2018.

This year’s pairings are:

  • Sabrina Welch, a PhD candidate in Engineering at Jackson State University, and Diego Delgado, a graduate student in Engineering at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, will be hosted first by Dr. Medeiros at the University of Central Florida and later by Dr. Hagen at Louisiana State University.
  • Two students from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, Hector J. Colon and Peter Rivera, both undergraduate students in Engineering, will be hosted by Dr. Dan Cox at Oregon State University.
  • Stephen Kreller, a graduate student in Geography at Louisiana State University, will be hosted by Dr. Brian Blanton at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • Three undergraduate students from Tougaloo College will be hosted at the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center: Psychology major Courtney Hill (advised by Pam Rubinoff and Donald Robadue), Biology major Rosalie Cisse (advised by Jan Rines and Lucie Maranda) and Biology major Kierra Jones (advised by Tatiana Rynearson and Stephanie Anderson).

Additionally, several undergraduate students from Johnson C. Smith University will learn about storm surge modeling from research faculty, including Dr. Casey Dietrich, at North Carolina State University as part of a one-week coastal resilience summer camp. The students are Thandiwe Balani, Qunitavious Coleman, Djerhkea Dukes, Tendru Howell, Imyer Majors, Frandy Prince, Aaron Smith, Ashenafi Tsaudu and Amyr Washington.

Last summer, seven students were hosted by six research project personnel as part of the exchange. Their stories are shared in the CRC News section and on the Students page of the website.

Summer research team collaboration

Research PIs will host faculty this summer semester as part of a program to facilitate further involvement of Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) in the Center’s projects.

This year, CRC PI Dr. Larry Atkinson of Old Dominion University (ODU) and researchers Dr. Joshua Behr, Michelle Covi, Dr. Janet Gail Nicula and Dr. Wie Yusuf will host Dr. Camilla Okpodu and Dr. Bernadette Holmes from Norfolk State University (NSU). At NSU, Dr. Okpodu leads a project called “A Systems Approach: Developing Cross-Site Multiple Drivers to Understand Climate Change, Sea-level Rise and Coastal Flooding for an African American Community.” Dr. Holmes leads a project called “A Sociological Framework for Understanding Climate Change, Sea-level Rise and Coastal Flooding in the African American Community: A Systems Approach.”

The CRC researchers at ODU will partner with each NSU project to provide guidance and feedback, serve as a resource for engaging the local community, provide guidance on data management and supervise ODU graduate students participating in the multi-institutional project teams.

Last summer, Principal Investigator Brian Blanton, at UNC-Chapel Hill, hosted Dr. Anton Bezuglov, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. He and student Reinaldo Santiago explored how artificial neural networks can be used to build predictive models for hurricane-driven storm surge on the North Carolina coast.

This partnership is part of a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program managed by Oak Ridge Affiliated Universities (ORAU), which solicits competitive proposals from MSIs to perform summer research in residence at one of the DHS Centers of Excellence (COEs) under the mentorship of a COE researcher. Accepted faculty members bring along one or two students to the COE for the summer. After the summer, the MSI PIs have the opportunity to compete for a year of research funding back at their MSI in a topic related to their summer research. The program has significantly expanded the DHS student reach to MSI graduates and has expanded the pool of MSI universities with professors performing research and graduating students in areas of relevance to DHS and its component agencies and other federal agency partners.