|Dr. Meyer is a computer scientist at the University of Utah|
Our blog has been updated! During the upcoming CI-WATER Symposium, computer scientist Dr. Miriah Meyer will give a public talk about how computer scientists can help researchers better understand their data. This week we share what her work is about and why it is important to the sort of research CI-WATER is working on.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
This is where computer scientists, like Dr. Miriah Meyer come in.
“I create interactive visualization tools to help scientists understand their data,” says Dr. Meyer, who will be presenting “Visualizing Data: Why an Interactive Picture is Worth 1,000 Numbers” on May 29th at the Natural History Museum of Utah at the Rio Tinto Center, in conjunction with the Second Annual CI-WATER Symposium.
Dr. Meyer became interested in visualization systems while working at a software engineering company after earning her bachelor’s degree in astronomy.
“I love the thought process of computer science,” Dr. Meyer says. “I like to build things as opposed to study them.”
Dr. Meyer’s work isn’t all building however. In order to understand her clients’ needs for a visualization system, she must first understand them, their project and the need for the data. So, she studies them and in doing so, she determines where the visualization tool will be useful, then matches the data type with the visual technique, or creates a new technique, if necessary. These visualization tools, in the form of charts and graphs, are more useful than lengthy spreadsheets, and help researches get a stronger grasp on the outcomes of their work.
Visualization tools, however, aren’t only used by scientists.
“Every aspect of our lives now uses computer science,” Dr. Meyer explains. “The reason I like computer science is that I get to work in just about any field I’d like.”
Currently, Dr. Meyer is working on a tool for a poetry project, a finance project and several scientific projects. Because of the variability of the projects, Dr. Meyer encourages all students to explore this field.
“I think computer science is something everyone should try,” she says. “And, anyone can do it with some degree of work.”
Computer science is a growing field, and one in need of more diversity, Dr. Meyer says. The less diversity there is in the field, the less innovation, because not all technology needs are being recognized. As the STEM fields become more team driven, Dr. Meyer sees an even greater need for diversity in computer science.
“The future of STEM isn’t just about raw analytic skills anymore,” Dr. Meyer says. “Other skills, such as empathy and compassion are just as important.”
Dr. Meyer’s talk on May 29th will examine how interactive visualization systems support people working with Big Data and how these systems are an essential component in research today. While she is not working directly on the CI-WATER project, her message on visualization tools is important to the project because it offers scientists new ways of interpreting research.
“Scientific data often has a large amount of complexity, so using visual channels helps create better representations,” Dr. Meyer says. “Prototypes of these tools often lead to new questions scientists have never asked.”
More information about Dr. Meyer’s work can be found at: http://www.cs.utah.edu/~miriah/.
To register for Dr. Meyer’s talk, please visit the CI-WATER website.
By Kali S. McCrackin
Photo courtesy of Utah Education Network
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Deciding on a career path is a daunting choice for many college students. There are so many options, and at eighteen years old, it’s hard to know what path will be most fulfilling. Sometimes, finding a direction is straight-forward, and other times, inspiration comes from unexpected places. For Dawn Allenbach, currently a PhD candidate at the University of New Orleans (UNO), the inspiration for pursuing a degree in biology came from her required public speaking course at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas.
“It was the poaching speech I gave that really sealed the deal for me,” says Dawn. “I think that was actually where mentally I went, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a biologist’. But I think growing up in the country where everything that we had around us was somehow tied to nature is what made me sympathetic to the whole anti-poaching cause.”
Dawn’s childhood setting with hay fields, livestock and the howling of coyotes at night may not be that unfamiliar to many in the western United States. Her life, however, hasn’t been like most. At three years old, Dawn was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), as were her younger sister and brother. SMA is a genetic disorder which causes skeletal muscle strength to diminish over time, necessitating the use of a wheelchair. Despite the barriers others have put up because of her disability, Dawn has followed success after success from high school through her PhD work in conservation biology. On April 25 and 26, Dawn came to the University of Wyoming to share her experiences as a scientist and to offer suggestions on how to make science more accessible in the classroom and the field.
Adaptability, Dawn says, is the key to inclusion. Unfortunately, thinking outside the box when it comes to disabilities isn’t always easy for others.
During her interview at UNO, her future advisor asked, “How can you do research when you can’t do the most basic of physical actions?”
Dawn replied with her characteristic well-grounded logic and dry wit. “Have you ever heard of something called a lab assistant?”
This type of question is one Dawn has faced time and time again. It illuminates the limits that others see people like Dawn facing, but Dawn dismisses them time and time again.
“The mental is there,” she says. “I may not be able to clean the fish tank, but I can help direct an undergraduate assistant in how to do it, because I have a brain and I can speak. Do what my parents do: don’t treat people with disabilities like they are broken. Don’t treat them like there is something wrong with them, because there isn’t.”
Dawn advises all students, regardless of disability, to overcome any barriers and pursue degrees of interest, because finding happiness in what you do with your life is what matters.
“Do something that you care about, because if you are stuck doing genetics and you don’t want to do genetics, you’re going to be miserable,” she says.
Finding the thing you care about in science fields may not happen during an undergraduate career. Rather, it takes having hands-on experience, Dawn says, to really know that the area you are studying is right for you.
“I feel like the master’s degree, where you’re in the lab more than in the classroom, is where you’re really learning what it is about to be a scientist,” Dawn says. “I feel like it is easier to change gears either during the master’s or after, than it is with a PhD.”
While the trend is moving towards going straight from undergraduate work to a PhD, Dawn maintains that the master’s in an important step. A PhD requires a lot of dedication and students have to be mentally ready for that commitment.
“I feel like people shouldn’t be rushed, especially when you’re twenty-three,” Dawn says. “You have to be in a place in your life where you are ready to handle that amount of work. If you’re not sure, don’t do it. There is no time limit at all, I think.”
For Dawn, her master’s degree really helped her focus on what she wanted to do, which has made her more successful in her PhD work. As her PhD defense grows nearer, Dawn is looking towards the future and what options are available.
“I’d like to do a post-doc first, if I can find something that is related to what I’m doing, but that will teach me something new,” Dawn says.
Eventually, she would like to work at a university. As with all of her pursuits, Dawn is looking at the future with a healthy mix of energy, optimism and realism.
“I don’t think I’m going into it with any illusions that things are great,” she says. “I definitely don’t have any illusions that it’s going to be easy. It’s going to be a ride and I just have to see where it takes me.”
With her energy and enthusiasm, her intellect and work ethic, Dawn is sure to reach her goals and inspire others as she has inspired us with her research and outlook on life.
By Kali S. McCrackin
Friday, May 3, 2013
Water Week is May 6th-May 11th. Information about viewing these programs can be found at: http://www.wyoptv.org/programming/schedules/.
For more information about Glen Canyon: A Dam, Water and the West, as well as a collection of historical images tracing the life of the dam, please visit: http://www.kued.org/productions/glencanyon/about/program.html
Water: The Lifeblood of Energy describes the connection between water and energy, as well as efforts to create a balance between the two. More information can be found at: http://www.prairiepublic.org/television/prairie-public-on-demand/water-the-lifeblood-of-energy
Safe water is a scarcity in many parts of the world, including the United States. Seeking Water from the Sun looks are water scarcity in the United States and at how solar energy may help make clean water. More information about the film is available at https://originals.azpm.org/seekingwater/
We hope you can join us in watching these films.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
On Thursday, April 25 and Friday, April 26, Dawn Allenbach, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New Orleans, will visit the University of Wyoming to share her experience as a scientist and to talk about her research. This week on the blog, we would like to share her biography and encourage you to attend her presentations.
Dawn’s father told her and her siblings early in their lives, “You WILL go to college. End of discussion.” To that effect, Dawn graduated high school as a member of the National Honor Society (NHS) in 1989, from Hutchinson Community College (AA in biology) as a member of Phi Theta Kappa NHS in 1991, and from Wichita State University (BS in biological sciences) as a member of Golden Key NHS and Mortar Board NHS in 1994. She went on to earn her MS in biological sciences, emphasis in ecology and environmental toxicology, from WSU in 1997. Dawn is proud to say she graduated with a mere $1000.00 of debt, thanks to the grants and academic scholarships that paid for her undergraduate degree and a teaching assistanceship she held during her graduate degree. Dawn is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the conservation biology program at the University of New Orleans and plans to defend her dissertation this summer. During her studies at UNO, she received the Louisiana State Board of Regents Superior Graduate Fellowship and the Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship. Both her masters and Ph.D. work have examined the effects of pesticide runoff on fish. In the future, she hopes to also examine the full life cycle effects of residual nanoparticles on fish.
Much hated in her life is the fact that Dawn has outlived both her siblings. Stacy died in 2001 at the age of 27. She was four months short of achieving her elementary education degree from Western Illinois University; however, the university did posthumously grant her degree. Paul died in 2007 at the age of 30. He was six months short of receiving his master of arts in English literature from Wichita State University; again, his degree was posthumously granted, and his parents were invited to a special awarding of his diploma during graduation. Dawn has determined to be fully, corporeally present for her hooding ceremony in honor of her two first and best friends.
Please join us Thursday, April 25 at 11a.m. in the Union Family room (212) for Dawn’s presentation of Dairy of a Gimpy Kid: The Adventures of a Would-be Biologist, and on Friday, April 26 at 12:10 p.m. in room 138 of the Berry Center for Effects of Climate Change and Land Use-Related Stressors on Medaka (Oryzias latipes).
By Dawn Allenbach
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Earlier this year we started a series of blogs about the EPSCoR office. The following is part five of the series and focuses on Communications Coordinator, Kali McCrackin.
Our staff member, who quietly interviews, creatively writes
and photographs, promotes and advertises and effectively communicates to a
large and very diverse audience needs to be recognized herself! EPSCoR’s Communication Coordinator, Kali
McCrackin, leads a full and inspiring life definitely worth sharing.
|Kali at the Grand Canyon over spring break in March.|
Kali grew up in Laramie and is a graduate of Laramie High School. To provide an idea of the motivated and go-getter attitude that Kali possess: After her freshman year at the University of Wyoming, Kali went to Tanzania, Africa to teach English. Imagine, an 18-year-old woman leaving her family, friends and the life that she knows and traveling alone to Tanzania for a month.
“Going to Tanzania is one of my proudest accomplishments,” Kali shares. “Travelling abroad, and to Africa specifically, was something that I always wanted to do. I feel like it is where I grew up and it was a life-changing experience for me. It is also where I met my boyfriend, Andy. Tanzania will always be a very special place for me.”
Currently, Kali is a senior graduating in May. She is majoring in journalism and international studies and minoring in creative writing and French. Additionally, she is in the Honors Program at the University of Wyoming, where she met her now closest friends during her very first semester. Kali has studied French since she was in the seventh grade and also went abroad to Tours, France in 2011 during her junior year. While in France, she studied at the François Rabelais University. She has also completed an independent study project on Africa.
Kali also works part-time for EPSCoR and the College of Engineering. As the Communications Coordinator for EPSCoR, she accesses all multi-media forums, including Facebook, Twitter, blogs, newsletters and video. And, she does this with a large team of scientists, researchers and educators often joining – with camera, notebook and recorder - these folks in the field. “I love working with EPSCoR. I am so happy to apply my degrees and have the opportunity to write and meet people. No day is ever the same, which is so unlike other jobs.”
Where does the creative writing come in? “I got into writing through stories. My mom always read to us [my brother and I]. I learned to write through reading. I did a lot of creative writing in high school, including novels, which I now need to take the time to edit.” Kali continues, “At the University, I mainly write short stories.”
Reading and writing hasn’t always been easy for Kali. “I was a poor student in elementary school. I didn’t learn to read until I was eleven and in the fifth grade. My teacher worked really closely with me.” Overcoming this challenge rooted Kali’s attitude, “I learned early-on that if I worked hard, I can do anything.”
Kali has proven that she can do anything. Kali is one of twenty Arts and Sciences Outstanding Undergraduates and a nomination for the Spitaleri Award - the best female undergraduate award. For this award, Kali was interviewed by a panel of twelve faculty and administration members from all over campus. (The Spitaleri award will be named on April 26th.) She is also a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honorary Society and the International Studies Honorary Society.
If not exhausted already just reading about Kali and her accomplishments, Kali is completing her Honors Program project about literature and photography. This project is a combination of the history of the two working together and a series of four (yes, four) short stories (written by Kali) with pictures (taken by Kali). The last story is told almost completely through photographs. Kali will present this project on April 26th at the Undergraduate Research Day and the end of June at a presentation conference in Steamboat Springs.
In addition her scholastic and academic interests and accomplishments, Kali also likes to be outside running, hiking and road biking. She was on the ski team in high school and still enjoys skiing.
“I have to be busy,” Kali admits. “I don’t know what relaxation is. I thrive with a lot to do. My mom is the same way and I think I learned this from her.”
Following graduation in May, Kali will spend the summer in Laramie. She then plans to travel to Asia in August to teach English for at least a year. “If I really love it, I will stay longer. This is what I’ve looked forward to doing: travelling abroad after graduation. Maybe go back to Tanzania. I want to travel and explore and experience before finding a real job.”
Surely, these travel adventures will enhance Kali’s already diverse and broad experiences. She hopes to someday find a job similar to what she currently does, “A multi-media communication position with an organization that I believe in. I want to be able to creatively get the information out!”
By Beth Cable
Photo courtesy of Peggy McCrackin
By Beth Cable
Photo courtesy of Peggy McCrackin