State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

NSF Joins Early Career Scientists aboard a Training Cruise

Rose Dufour talks with early career scientists and crew members. Photo courtesy of Dan Fornari
Rose Dufour, program director of ship operations at the National Science Foundation, talks with early career scientists aboard R/V Atlantis. Photo courtesy of Dan Fornari

By Bridgit Boulahanis

Rose Dufour loves science. “You have to,” she says, “to work this job for so long.” Rose is the program director of ship operations for the National Science Foundation (NSF), the government agency that funds most ocean science in the United States, and she is responsible for making our training cruise (among many other research cruises) possible.

Every earth scientist knows about NSF, but it can be rare for those of us early in our careers to get to actually chat with a representative of the funding agency. Rose knows that, so she tries to attend as many early career workshops as she can.

This was her first time going to sea with one of the workshops she funded, and she says the experience was beneficial in both directions. “It is crucial that we communicate with early career scientists about the NSF facilities available to them,” she emphasized, because that is one way to ensure young scientists learn to write effective proposals. On her end, the ability to experience firsthand the value of the program and see what interests early career scientists was fascinating. She also got to dive in Alvin, a research submarine, and she loved it.

“What I do at work every day is important, and I don’t ever go in and feel bored,” she said, but her favorite part is that she gets to spend days at sea. Like the scientists she came here to inform, she loves being on the ocean.

Early career scientist Katrina Twing with NSF's Dufour. Courtesy of Dan Fornari
Early career scientist Katrina Twing with NSF’s Rose Dufour. Photo courtesy of Dan Fornari

Rose also mentioned her hope that other young scientists would be participating from afar through telepresence. Telepresence has been a crucial component of our experience during this workshop, and it is a growing aspect of ocean science. From the ship we conducted several “live streams” that anyone could tune into, making it possible for other scientists and the general public to remotely participate in our cruise. Combine those live video streams with interaction through social media, and suddenly the entire world had the capacity to be a part of our research in real time. Not only was this a great tool for showing the public the excitement of science in real time, but it also allowed early career scientists anywhere in the world to follow along with the exciting lessons we were learning aboard—and they are important lessons.

“I hope early career scientists will leave this with the confidence to write a proposal,” Rose said, “because NSF wants to fund them!” She assured us that there are plenty of opportunities for scientists at all levels, and that we should pursue them. Whether the person is an undergraduate looking to go to sea for a day or a new associate professor trying to lead his or her first full expedition, NSF has programs and funds that they should aim to use. “Also, we are all very friendly,” she said. She encouraged those who are applying to NSF programs to email their program director.

On our cruise, researchers gathered around whenever we got a moment free to pepper her with questions about how science gets funded. On that topic, Rose kept it incredibly simple: write an innovative, interesting scientific proposal.

Bridgit Boulahanis is a marine geophysics graduate student at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Her research utilizes multichannel seismic reflection and refraction studies as well as multibeam mapping data to explore Mid-Ocean Ridge dynamics, submarine volcanic eruptions, and how oceanic crustal accretion changes through time. Read more about the training cruise in her first post.

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