Plymouth State University Meteorology Program Awarded $528,000 National Science Foundation Grant

Latest grant supports continuation of undergraduate research program focused on atmospheric and related sciences.

The Plymouth State Meteorology Program was awarded a $528,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support the four-year continuation of an undergraduate research program that explores atmospheric and related sciences, and provides students research and related professional development opportunities. The award to PSU is one of two grants totaling more than $1 million to support the Northeast Partnership for Atmospheric and Related Sciences (NEPARS) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU), an ongoing collaboration between PSU and Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) in New York.

The NEPARS REU program is competitive, and each year hundreds of students from institutions across the United States apply for paid internships in research or as program assistants. The collaborative program hosts a combined 12 student interns, two student program assistants, and six faculty mentors each summer, with the groups divided into two cohorts – one at PSU and one at HWS. The PSU program is led by Associate Professor Jason (Jay) Cordeira, Ph.D., and PSU meteorology faculty Professor Eric Hoffman, Ph.D., Professor Lourdes Avilés, Ph.D., and Research Associate Professor Eric Kelsey, Ph.D. serve as faculty mentors.

The cohorts from both institutions meet regularly throughout the summer, including an orientation session in early June at HWS, a trip to New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Observatory and a research workshop at PSU in July, and an end-of-summer research symposium at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany in August. The cohorts also meet frequently via video conferencing to discuss research progress and participate in professional development activities. The summer 2020 program was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the majority of applicants who were accepted opted to defer and will participate in 2021.

“While many REU programs are geared toward third-year undergraduate students, the primary goal of the PSU-HWS REU program is to provide first- and second-year undergraduate students with rich learning opportunities, helping them prepare for careers in STEM fields,” said Cordeira. “Students from across the country come together for several weeks each summer to collaborate with peers, faculty and other professionals, and have the opportunity to participate in research and real-world experiences, such as visiting the Mount Washington Observatory and attending and presenting their work at a national conference.”

The NEPARS REU program provides first-time research opportunities to a diverse group of rising sophomores and juniors that has completed its first and second years of undergraduate education. As part of the program, interns receive valuable training in conducting research, professional and career development, and develop effective leadership and communication skills through a series of workshops and opportunities to interact with professionals within the scientific community.

This most recent NSF grant complements a diverse portfolio of grant-funding that the PSU meteorology program has been awarded in recent years, including grants from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the California Department of Water Resources, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and private collaborations.

“The most important aspect of this funding is that it provides meaningful opportunities for our students to participate in real-world research, work experiences, and professional development activities that complement PSU’s commitment to our Integrated Clusters learning model and its emphasis on collaboration and developing critical thinking skills,” said Cordeira.

PSU and HWS started the collaborative NEPARS REU program in 2018. The program was started by Neil Laird, Ph.D., Professor of Geoscience at HWS, and Cordeira. The recent NSF grant will support the program through 2024. In 2018 and 2019, 26 undergraduate students participated in the program, and 56 additional undergraduate students will have the opportunity to participate through 2024.