Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thanks to the National Science Foundation for Great Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program

I returned around 1AM from Colorado where I had spent a few days visiting my daughter who is taking part in a 10 week National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program at the University of Colorado Boulder.

This was my first time in Boulder and I loved the vibe there, the natural beauty, the friendliness of the people, and, of course, the University of Colorado. I had been to Colorado multiple times for both conferences and visiting relatives but this was my first time in Boulder.

The specific project that my daughter, Alexandra, is working on is: Emissions Consequences of Shale Gas Production in the Rocky Mountain Region.  She is being hosted by Professor Jana Milford, who has both a a PhD and a law degree - impressive! In essence, she is quantifying the emissions associated with fracking but not only in terms of production but also in terms of delivery, which I think is very cool. One of my passions is sustainable supply chains and energy systems but more from the math modeling, game theory and optimization perspectives.

The National Science Foundation funds a number of REU sites around the US.  One has to apply for these and they are wonderful opportunities for undergraduates to become deeply engaged in research. Typically, about 10 or so students are part of an REU program. Now at Boulder there is both an environmental REU taking place as well as a physics one, and my daughter, who loves science - the hard kind - geological science - is involved in the environmental sustainability REU.

The students also get to visit other research sites, go to local conferences, do a lot of on-site field work and data analysis, meet students from around the country, and enjoy living and growing in a new environment.

Needless to say, she loves Boulder and is very grateful for the scientific experiences that she has had because of this great National Science Foundation program.

Boulder reminds us a bit of the Pioneer Valley, with Amherst, Northampton, and Deerfield at the core,  but on a much more majestic scale with the Rockies as a backdrop and with many high tech firms having research outlets there. I love just listening to the conversations as you walk on Pearl Street or sit in the numerous cafes. I heard "analytics" multiple times.

And another aspect of an REU is exploring a new location so, along with some new friends, my daughter climbed Grays Peak, a 14,000 foot mountain, quite the achievement.

I have sponsored about a dozen of undergraduates at the Isenberg School of Management under an REU supplementary grant that I had as part of a previous National Science Foundation grant.  Students worked in my Supernetwork Lab for Computational and Visualization, which is part of the Virtual Center for Supernetworks that I founded in 2001 and direct. And one of those students, Christina Calvaneso, who graduated back in 2003, was recently recognized by the Isenberg School of Management, with a Young Alumna Business Leadership Award.