Thursday, February 22, 2018
Student Interns at NOAA Labs are a Breath of Fresh Air
/ Categories: Feature, Education

Student Interns at NOAA Labs are a Breath of Fresh Air

by Leslie Irwin, OAR Communications Specialist

There is some new blood coursing through NOAA’s veins.

This summer, the Educational Partnership Program (EPP) invited its first cohort of Cooperative Science Center (CSC) students to participate in the NOAA Experiential Research and Training Opportunity (NERTO). This program is one of several ways the EPP aims to advance collaborative research in the NOAA-mission sciences through the talent of student researchers, which can also be placed as Undergraduate Scholars and Hollings Scholars. Since 2001, EPP CSCs and other scholarship programs have supported over 2,500 students.

Hollings Scholars

Hollings Scholars

The Hollings Scholars class of 2013 at the Science and Education Symposium. Credit: NOAA
Five CSCs were established between 2001 and 2006 at Minority Serving Institutions, including Howard University, the City College of the City University of New York, Florida A&M University, North Carolina A&T State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

NERTO students, ranging from undergraduates to graduates and even law students, are experiencing NOAA first-hand as a potential career path, and gaining perspectives in international ocean policy, coral health, air quality, and even ocean exploration from the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer! NOAA labs and offices across the country participate as hosts for the student interns, including the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service, National Weather Service, and the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. Each intern is afforded the opportunity to work at a NOAA facility, conduct research alongside NOAA scientists, and become familiar with how NOAA conducts research to support its mission.

Latoya Myles

Latoya Myles

Latoya Myles was a former student from NOAA's Graduate Science Program, who now conducts air quality research with NOAA's Air Resources Laboratory. Credit: NOAA
  The students aren’t the only ones benefitting from this opportunity. In return, NOAA labs gain a fresh set of minds with new ideas for approaching the research, often with improved efficiency while maintaining the integrity of the results. NOAA-CSC collaborations have resulted in 777 projects and 887 peer-reviewed research papers. Upon completion of the internship, students sometimes join the NOAA workforce as full-time researchers, eventually taking on their own students.

Latoya Myles was a 2001 fellow in NOAA’s former Graduate Sciences Program, where she worked under researchers at the Air Resources Laboratory (ARL) and eventually transitioned into a position with ARL’s Atmospheric Turbulence and Diffusion Division, conducting air quality studies. She has taken several students under her wing in the past years, and as a former student of NOAA’s internship programs, she now sees the payback from the other side of the coin.

“Several years ago, I mentored an Undergraduate Scholar who suggested an easier way of preparing and extracting samples. Her input saved us time in the field and sparked ideas to further refine our methods. She was invaluable!”

CSC Interns

CSC Interns

CSC interns, Jason Caldwell and Daryl Sibble, visiting NOAA's P-3 research aircraft. Credit: NOAA

Myles now mentors two graduate-level CSC interns, Jason Caldwell and Daryl Sibble, from the Environmental CSC at Florida A&M. Their research on atmospheric ammonia in the agricultural Midwest runs the gamut of instrument development, data collection, and model development through producing results that directly support ARL’s air quality program goals.

“Before the internship is over, I plan to gain valuable knowledge and experience working with scientific instruments that are used to measure atmospheric ammonia fluxes. Data recorded during the internship will be used to develop my dissertation,” says Sibble.

The scientific merit of the work NOAA labs gain from various EPP internships is high, and students learn real-life laboratory and field skills they wouldn’t have gotten from a classroom, as well as a sense of direction for a future career in NOAA research.

“I could definitely see myself pursuing a career in NOAA research,” explains Sibble.

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