Christyna is a student at Utah State University currently completing her research at University of Maryland, College Park under Dr. Ross Maguire.
For this project, I'll be looking at active-source data from northwest Greenland to determine the properties and origin of a subglacial lake there, which was discovered by radar a few years ago. All of the field work and data collection for this project has already been completed, so my job will be to analyze the results from the active-source survey.
So I'm just about finished with my internship, but despite what I may have said in previous blog posts or to anyone else, my research doesn't quite feel finished. Actually, it doesn't feel at all finished; in the last few days, I think I've come across more questions than I had to begin with. However, I'm looking forward to continuing exploring these questions, even though I'll be far away from the people I've been working with, and even though I'll no longer be getting paid for doing it. Looking forward, it's easy to see that I've got a lot to look forward still with this research; I'm planning on spending time in the coming weeks and months writing up my process and findings, and hopefully publishing a paper! I've accomplished more or less everything I set out to do this summer, but I'm excited to be able to set new goals and keep moving forward with everything I've learned these last several weeks.
I know I also promised to be a little sappy this week...this is my last blog post, after all. I'm going to be honest, I'm kind of sad to be leaving College Park and all the friends I've made here. I'm trying to focus, though, on how grateful I am for this whole experience. I think I may have mentioned before, but I came very close to not even applying for this internship, but I am so, so grateful I did. I've learned so much this summer, not just about research and seismology, but about myself as well. Shoutout to anyone reading this for joining me on this journey; it sure has been a good one 😊
WELL, I'm excited to announce that I'm finally starting to see some results from the all of my hard work this summer. And by results, I mean research results, and they're looking pretty good! For the past couple days, I've had multiple copies of the same codes open so I can try slightly different approaches to get maximum best results (What if I change my average velocity by 50 m/s? What happens if I change the width of my uniform filter? Is that first reflection coming in at 0.455 seconds or 0.457 seconds?), but now that mostly I've narrowed it down, my computer desktop is starting to look a little less crazy, and I think my brain probably is, too.
I couldn't be more thrilled to finally see some payoff from everything I've been working on for the past 8 weeks, and I'm so excited to be able to share my results at AGU in December. Speaking of which, the fact that I now have something solid to put in my abstract (which is due in just a few days!) is a huge relief.
After today, I've got six days left here at my internship. I'm hoping to keep them just as full as every day before now. I have to clean up my results and make them presentable, and I have to soak up every last minute of my time here before I head back to school for my senior year. I keep thinking about how worried I was to start here, and how it ended up being an all-around incredible experience, and I am so, so grateful. I'll save the rest of my sappy end-of-internship stuff for next week, when I'll actually be finishing up, but for now I'll just say that I'm so happy about how much I've learned and accomplished in the past couple months. Until next week.
It's hard to believe that I'm already getting so close to the end of my time here at the University of Maryland. Only two more full weeks until I'm finished! Adjusting was a little bit difficult when I first came here, but I'm becoming more and more sure that I'll miss this place when I leave. I'm starting to get some results from my research, which I'm thrilled about, especially since AGU abstracts are due soon (it's okay, I'm not worried about that at all, nope).
As far as challenges I've had here, there have definitely been a few. I think one of the biggest ones I faced at the beginning was my own anxiety. I was worried that I wasn't good enough or smart enough to do this. My solution to this wasn't anything new or creative; basically, this was something that I wanted, so I decided to push through my fear and just do my best. And it's turned out okay! Looking back, it's easy to see that it was always going to be okay-- this program wasn't set up for me to fail-- but I also know that those fears were very real. It hasn't always been easy, of course; there are a lot of things I've had to learn over the last couple months, but I think that's kind of the point of being here. I want to take a quick look at one of the specific difficulties I've dealt with here.
One of the things that's been kind of hard (but also really fun!) is learning to code. People keep telling me that learn a programming language is just learn learning an actual language (I guess to make it sound less difficult?), but learning a language isn't exactly a piece of cake, either. Plus, people can usually understand you if you trip over a couple words, but the computer will definitely not; you might as well just be speaking gibberish. Learning to code has been a little frustrating at times, but it's also so rewarding when my code finally works! It'll take some time to really become profient (fluent?) at this, but I think I could really get into coding.
I might sound painfully optimistic, but I really do think most of my challenged this summer could more accurately be called learning opportunities; at any rate, I've really learned a lot while here, which I'm super excited about! It's so great to spend my summer doing something intellectually stimulating and rewarding.
For whatever reason, I've really started to feel comfortable here this week. Of course, I've also started to realize just how far into my internship I've gotten. Only five weeks left! I for sure will not miss the heat or the crazy humidy (or the way that Maryland drivers seem to think that traffic laws are optional...), but I will definitely miss working here. Another professor just got an undergrad intern this week, so now I'm not even the new person here anymore.
One thing that has been a little frustrating is that I haven't really gotten to work with the data much yet. I had a lot of preliminary stuff to work with (learning how to code was a huge one), and people have been out of town a lot. I've been getting stuff done, and I know I'll get everything else done, too, but I feel like things have been moving a little slowly. In the meantime, though, I've been having a lot of fun learning to code, especially now that I've been making figures in Python, so my coding projects are actually relevant to my research project. I've made two graphs in the last week: the first one took me a long time to figure out, even with some starting help from Ross. The second one, though, I did entirely by myself and completed much faster! So I can tell I'm learning, which is a good feeling.
Here is my lovely map of Greenland, with a zoomed in image of the area I'm studying. The map of all of Greenland was created in Python, using Matplotlib and Cartopy. The close-up portion was made in Java, with a little bit (by which I mean a lot) of help from Ross. That little red box on the map corresponds the the area the image is zoomed in to.
Week three shall be indelibly impressed upon my brain as the week where no one was here. A good chunk of the department, including Nick, was in Paris for an InSight conference. I don't know whether I mentioned before, but a lot of people here are working on InSight data from Mars, which I think is insanely cool. It's fine, I'm not jealous that they get to work on that OR that they got to go to Paris for a week. Not jealous at all. In addition, Ross, the postdoc who I work pretty closely with, was out of town for part of the week as well (unrelated to the InSight stuff, although he does work on that, too). And for some reason the other people who work in my lab (the ones who didn't go to Paris) were mysteriously absent for long chunks of time. Basically what I'm saying is, it was super quiet. I think I went at least two days straight without talking to anyone.
I spent most of week three working on making figues, including teaching myself to use Adobe Illustrator and learning how to make maps in Python, which was surprisingly easy.
I also had time to work on my elevator speech. I think the concpet of an elevator speech is pretty interesting. Since getting here, I feel like I've explained my project to a lot of different people, which has given me some good practice, but I almost always have to adapt my summary to my audience. If I'm explaining it to another geoscientist, I feel comfortable skipping a lot of the explanation and diving straight into the jargon. If I'm talking about it to someone I just met at church, I have to get a sense for how much I simplify it so what I'm saying makes sense. My elevator speech caters more to a scientific audience, but I think putting things in layman's terms helps me check that I actually understand what I'm talking about.
So...I'm just a tad behind on blogging, but I'm catching up! I already mentioned some stuff from week two in my first blog post, since I wrote it halfway through that week. In addition to finally meeting Nick, the professor I'm working with, I got a public library card during my second week here, so I guess I'm a real member of the community now! Oh, and I also finally got a campus ID card on Friday of week two, which is nice since I had no access to anything on campus (including the lab I work in, the wifi, and the bus that I often take to and from work) without it.
So, for the data I'm working with: The dataset I'm analyzing this summer was taken in Greenland in June 2017, by Nick. He was in Greenland studying something else at the time, and decided to collect this while he was in the area (I guess it's not everyday you happen to be in northern Greenland). It's an active source dataset, pretty similar to what we collected during orientation week. Since this data was collected by the profesor I'm working with, I'm the first person to really look at it, which is pretty exciting! As far as I'm aware, it's the first seismic study of a subglacial lake in Greenland, as they're a relatively recent discovery. One nice thing about the data is that it's pretty straightforward. I'm looking mostly at reflections from the interface between the base of the glacier and the surface of the lake, which means that a) the reflections are coming from a horizontal plane and b) I don't have too many different materials to worry about. Just ice, water, and bedrock if I can find reflections from that far down. Even though it's now week four, I haven't actually looked much at this data yet-- I've been working on some other things, like poster figures, coding, and setting up some stuff to put the data into context once I finally do start working with it (hopefully soon!).
Well! My first week or so in College Park has been a bit change from orientation in Socorro! For one thing, I get to set my own schedule. For another, the town could not be more different: College Park is crowded, loud, and humid, while Socorro is, well, none of those things. Despite the adjustments, things have been good here. I'm slowly learning my way around and remembering people's names, and I finally met Dr. Nick Schmerr, whose lab I am working in and whose data I'm working with and who was on vacation all of last week. I'm working a little more closely with Dr. Ross Maguire, although so far that work mostly just entails learning to code and getting some background on what exactly I'm studying. The reason this blog post is a tad late is that I was waiting until I could sit down with both Nick and Ross to discuss what my goals are for the summer, which I'll list in more detail below. Just a reminder to anyone reading this, the overall goal of my project is to study a subglacial lake located in northwest Greenland based on active source data, in an attempt to detemine the depth of the lake as well as its origin.
-Become familiar with coding, plotting, and other technical skills necessary to analyze and visualize my data.
-Study the relevent scientific literature to put what I'm studying into clearer context.
-Learn more about reflection seismology.
-Apply filters and corrections to the seismic data.
-Analyze the data, looking for lakebed depth and velocities of ice and water over and within the lake.
-Draw reasonable, defendable conclusions about the origin of the lake.
-Produce presentable figures outlining the research process, including of the data and a cross-sectional profile of the lake.
I'm excited to really start digging into this data and finding out what's below the ice!