Education News

All Earth Institute-Sponsored Fall Internships and Research Assistantships Announced

2008-10-08

Each semester, The Earth Institute offers a variety of research assistant and intern opportunities for Columbia students. Please see below for eight research assistantship descriptions and five internship descriptions. Only full-time undergraduates are eligible to apply for research assistantships. All full-time Columbia students are eligible to apply for internships. Please note the type of student requested for each position and the application deadline, which varies by project.

Research Assistant positions
1. CO2 Capture and Storage
2. Groundwater Arsenic
3. Heavy Metal Inventories and Sediment Storage
4. Bamboo Bicycles in Africa
5. Urban Watershed Planning
6. Palm Oil Production in Papua New Guinea

Intern positions
7. Global Roads Data Project
8. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Data Distribution Centre (DCC) at CIESIN-SEDAC
9. Impact Evaluation for Development Projects
10. Building a Meridional Sediment Core Stratigraphic Transect for the Atlantic Ocean
11. Professional Sector Business Sustainability Education


1.  Project Title: Development and optimization of technologies for in situ capture of CO2

Location: Mining Engineering
Brief description of anticipated research assistant tasks:  Development and optimization of technologies for in situ capture of CO2, to be implemented in the new generation of power plants, is essential to carbon management. This project focuses on developing and testing a novel catalytic CO2 sorbent.  CaO is utilized within the sorbent to reversibly capture and regenerate CO2 for sequestration.  The oxide is washcoated as a very thin layer on a high surface area aluminum oxide.  Past experimentations have established the effectiveness of the proposed substrate to reversibly capture CO2 over a significant number of capture/release cycles, as well as its physical stability over time.
The laboratory work is focused on testing the operating parameters of the reactor. Isothermal CO2 adsorption studies are to be conducted for a range of temperatures.  The effect of moisture on the reactor performance is to be tested.                 
Skills required:  The student will perform experimental work on reactor optimization.  The work will require a basic knowledge of reactor design.  The student should be comfortable in a chemical engineering laboratory setting, working with compressed gas and elevated temperatures.  To assist with the sorbent manufacturing, the students should have an understanding of solution preparations, basic instrumental calibrations, and errors associated with wet chemical techniques.
 
Type of student desired: Undergraduate

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities and a resume. Only full-time students of Columbia University are eligible for this program. 

Please submit application materials to Amanda Christie at arc2140@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 17th.


2.  Project Title: Finding the source of arsenic in groundwater of the Greater Augusta region, Maine

Location: Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences
Brief description of anticipated research assistant tasks:  An undergraduate research assistant is sought to work on a project that aims to find regions of low-arsenic groundwater for future domestic well installation in Maine. Approximately 40% of the population of Maine, located in the New England region of the United States, use groundwater from a private well as their domestic water supply.  Our detailed groundwater study, with 796 bedrock groundwater samples collected in a 1000 km2 area, shows approximately 30% of wells contain arsenic concentrations higher than the allowable limit in drinking water. These wells tap fractured bedrock aquifers consisting of faulted and folded metamorphic rocks exhibiting different degrees of metamorphism.  The degree of heterogeneity in both the water and rock chemical compositions presents a significant challenge in delineating the arsenic source to groundwater.  As the first step towards understanding arsenic water-rock interaction within the Augusta region, this study examines arsenic concentrations in rocks in low-grade and high-grade metamorphic zones. 
The tasks of the selected research assistant may include sawing and crushing rocks, photographing samples, conducting whole rock chemical analyses with a handheld XRF gun, leaching rocks in the laboratory, carrying out literature reviews, compiling tables of data and graphing results, and contributing to the overall management and execution of the project.
Skills required:  The successful candidate will have excellent time management skills, be confident working with a variety of geologic equipment, be able to work independently, be unafraid to ask questions, and keep detailed notes and records.  Prior laboratory skills and/or earth science classes are preferred but not required. All CU undergraduates are encouraged to apply.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities and a resume. Only full-time students of Columbia University are eligible for this program. 

Please submit application materials to Amanda Christie at arc2140@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 17th.


3.  Project Title: Heavy Metal Inventories and Sediment Storage in the Hudson River Estuary 

Location: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory – Geochemistry Division


Brief description of anticipated research assistant tasks:  Estuaries are important resources and many throughout the world are intensively used and modified by anthropogenic activities, which has resulted in instances of significant environmental contamination (e.g., heavy metals and organic contaminants). Many of these contaminants exhibit a high affinity for fine-grained sediments, making a detailed knowledge of the distribution and contaminant loading crucial to effective estuarine management. We use hand-held XRF to rapidly generate lead and other elemental distribution profiles. When this information is combined with bulk density information that is routinely measured on sediment cores inventories of metals such as Pb, Zn, and Cu derived from anthropogenic activities (i.e., contaminant inventories) can be computed and mapped.
The research assistant will assist us in the analysis of archived sediment cores in order to obtain down-core heavy metal distributions and estimate metal inventories. A research assistant can expect to gain solid experience in and provide valuable assistance with several phases of sediment core processing, and dating. Acquired analytical techniques would include physical sediment analyses (water content, organic content, matrix density, etc.), XRF spectrometry for major and trace element, gamma spectroscopy for the analysis of natural and man-made radionuclides, as well as data processing and interpretation. The RA will be integral to the published manuscripts from this research. Additionally, depending on the student’s interest, he or she could assist with integrating geochemical and geophysical data or assembling our data into a user-accessible GIS database. 
Skills required:  Common sense, good laboratory skills, mechanically inclined, willingness to work carefully and hard, some data analysis background would be helpful, but is not necessary.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities and a resume. Only full-time students of Columbia University are eligible for this program. 

Please submit application materials to Amanda Christie at arc2140@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 17th.


4.  Project Title: Bamboo bicycles as sustainable transportation in Africa

Location: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory – Geochemistry Division


Brief description of anticipated research assistant tasks:  The bicycle is the primary mode of mobility for millions of people throughout many poorer parts of the world.  In addition to individual transport, they see a vast number of applications including moving goods to market, the sick to hospital, and even the distribution of medicines. In many parts of Africa, very few people can own cars or even motorcycles and people without bicycles have to rely on inadequate and relatively expensive buses. Lack of access to effective transportation is a fundamental limiter to employment opportunities, local and regional trade, and public health.


The objectives of this Earth Institute-funded project are two-fold: 1) To build a better bike for poor Africans in rural areas; and 2) To stimulate a bicycle building industry in Africa to satisfy local needs.  The project aims to examine the feasibility of employing native bamboo for constructing the bicycle frames, as opposed to the commonly used chromium-molybdenum steel.
Research assistance is needed for logistics (coordinating with suppliers and vendors, maintaining project website, coordinating with project team members) and material testing.

Skills required:  The research assistant should have an interest in sustainable development, possess necessary lab research and communication skills, and have the ability to work independently.  

Type of student desired: Undergraduate

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities and a resume. Only full-time students of Columbia University are eligible for this program. 

Please submit application materials to Amanda Christie at arc2140@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 17th.

5.  Project Title: Spatio-temporal Variability in Rainfall and its Influence on Sustainable Urban Watershed Planning in the New York Metropolitan Area
Location: Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering
Brief description of anticipated research assistant tasks:  Long-term data available at the four weather stations maintained by NOAA in the New York City metropolitan area will be analyzed to characterize the spatial and temporal variability.  Both short-term and long-term simulations will be conducted to assess the reliability in stormwater supply.  Statistical comparisons will be made along with developing seasonal trends that are associated with long-term climate variability.  Two case studies, selected from a number of redevelopment projects in the City, will be used to incorporate the site-specific landuse and development aspects into this decision-making framework.  The rainfall-runoff generation methodology commonly used in the City will be integrated with simple water recycle/ reuse algorithms that account for seasonality (e.g., cooling water makeup from April to October) to assess the long-term benefits and tradeoff with developers pursuing such initiatives.  An auxiliary outcome will be guidance on the appropriate level of imperviousness reduction to achieve the desired hydrologic, water quality and ecologic goals at an optimal investment.
Skills required:  Students should have an interest in environmental engineering/science, water resources engineering, earth/atmospheric science, or climate change.  Students should be comfortable with manipulating and analyzing large datasets, or interested in developing such skills.  Computer programming languages or software applications such as Matlab and Excel will be used extensively.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities and a resume. Only full-time students of Columbia University are eligible for this program. 

Please submit application materials to Amanda Christie at arc2140@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 17th.


6.  Project Title: Social and Environmental Change and Palm Oil Production in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea 

Location: Barnard Department of Anthropology, GSAS, CERC and the Earth Institute
Brief description of anticipated research assistant tasks:  My current research seeks to understand the social and ecological effects of the oil palm plantation economy in Papua New Guinea (PNG). Across the Pacific, agricultural lands, tropical forests, recently timbered forests, and old coconut and coco plantations are being converted to oil palm plantations. Palm oil is derived from Elaeis guineensis, a perennial palm that is native to the African continent. It can be used for heating oil, as a food additive, and as a source for biofuel. Over the past five years New Ireland, a 8,650 km² island that is part of PNG, has seen a rapid increase in the number of hectares of land in palm oil production. The research assistant will help with preliminary data analysis of data collected during the summer of 2008.
Skills required: 

Type of student desired: Undergraduate

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities and a resume. Only full-time students of Columbia University are eligible for this program. 

Please submit application materials to Amanda Christie at arc2140@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 17th.


7. Project Title: Global Roads Data Project

Location: Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), Geosciences Building, Lamont  Campus

Brief description of anticipated intern tasks: The intern will be working on the compilation of a global roads data set by first cataloging and evaluating existing national-level roads data sets, and then stitching together these roads data sets using a consistent data model. This work is conducted under the auspices of the CODATA Global Roads Data Development Working Group (http://www.codata.org/taskgroups/WGglobalroads/), of which the intern supervisor serves as a co-chair.

Skills Required: Basic GIS and data management skills are required. Advances GIS skills, particularly in the use of ESRI products (ArcGIS 9.x), preferred.

Type of student desired: undergraduate, graduate or PhD.

Internship start date: as soon as possible.

Internship end date: December 19, 2008.

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities and a resume. Only full-time students of Columbia University are eligible for this program. 

Please submit application materials to Amanda Christie at arc2140@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 10th.


8. Project Title: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Data Distribution Centre (DCC) at CIESIN-SEDAC

Location: Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), Geosciences Building, Lamont Campus

Brief description of anticipated intern tasks: Assessments of climate change impact require the establishment of some baseline period against which changes will be measured. Baseline data are required for the relevant climate variables and also for non-climatic information (for example, carbon dioxide concentration, soil characteristics, population, income levels, etc). Ideally, these various baseline data sets should all refer to the same time period, e.g., whether 1961-90 averages or the 1990 value. Current IPCC Socioeconomic Baseline Data Set distributed on the IPCC DDC was collated from a variety of sources such as the World Bank, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The country and regional-level indicators of socioeconomic and resource variables were estimated at the beginning of the 1990s. They are badly out of date now. CIESIN-SEDAC has been working with IPCC TGICA on various strategies to update the data set.

Tasks: examine socioeconomic baseline data in the climate change impact assessments, research the current status of the IPCC Socioeconomic Baseline Data Set at IPCC DDC at http://sedac.ciesin.columbia.edu/ddc/baseline/index.html, analyze the usage of the data set since its publication on the DDC, track all the variables/indicators in the current data set from the original or other data sources, and analyze permission issues of downloading and redistribution, download and compile the data to the standard format for distribution on the DDC, update other climate change-related data sets including observed impacts, scenario-based projected vulnerability and distribution, and modeling data such as from COSMIC 2.

Skills required: Web-based research skills, familiarity with MS Office (particularly Word and Excel), general background or interest in socioeconomic data and climate change issues. Knowledge of HTML preferred.

Type of student desired: undergraduate or graduate.

Internship start date: as soon as possible.

Internship end date: December 19, 2008.

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities and a resume. Only full-time students of Columbia University are eligible for this program. 

Please submit application materials to Amanda Christie at arc2140@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 10th.


9. Project Title: Impact Evaluation for Development Projects

Location: International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), Monell 222, Lamont Campus
Brief description of anticipated intern tasks: The intern supervisor is organizing a seminar series that will introduce scientists at the Earth Institute (EI) to the methods of impact evaluation. Expanding the practice of impact evaluations of projects carried out at EI is critical in order to translate the vast experience available at EI into recommendations for best practices in promoting sustainable development which can be communicated to others. The seminar series will be followed by a workshop designed to initiate research on innovations in methods needed in order to assess impacts of policies on progress toward sustainable development. The supervisor will focus particularly on using the seminar series and workshop to develop impact evaluations of interventions designed to improve climate risk management carried out at IRI.

The student would help the intern supervisor organize the seminar series and workshop. She would document the discussions that take place during the seminars, noting questions that arise from scientists at the EI and IRI. She would write up a record of these discussions and post them on the seminar website. The records would then be used to follow up on further information that people need. She would help the supervisor put together a list of references and perhaps summaries of literature to help address some questions. She would also help the supervisor put together an agenda for the workshop and organize the workshop. If she is interested, she could also become involved in planning impact evaluation projects the supervisor is currently developing or which will arise from the seminar series and more generally in developing an impact evaluation agenda for the IRI.

Specific tasks: attend seminars, document seminar discussions, write summaries, follow up to clarify questions, do literature searches, help with planning seminars and workshop, help with arrangements for and receiving visiting speakers.

Skills required: 1) good verbal and written communication skills, organizational skills, and attention to detail; 2) interest in climate risk management and development policy; 3) a background in statistics would be very helpful.

Type of student desired: undergraduate, graduate or PhD.

Internship start date: immediately.

Internship end date: April 2009

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities and a resume. Only full-time students of Columbia University are eligible for this program. 

Please submit application materials to Amanda Christie at arc2140@columbia.edu by noon on Friday, October 10th.

10. Building a Meridional Sediment Core Stratigraphic Transect for the Atlantic Ocean

Location: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Brief description of anticipated intern tasks:
The student would work closely with Peter deMenocal and the Lamont Core Repository to develop calcium carbonate (CaCO3%) statigraphies for a series of 50 sediment cores extending from Iceland  to Antarctica along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. The goal is to build a meridional transect of sediment cores with stratigraphic control that can be used for future research to study north-south changes in ocean temperatures, salinity, nutrients, pCO2, etc.

Skills required: The student would be responsible for sampling the cores, and preparing powders for CaCO3 analysis. Lab work is required, but most of the work involves sediment weighing and instrument runs.

Type of student desired:  Any

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities and a resume. Only full-time students of Columbia University are eligible for this program. 

Please submit application materials to Amanda Christie at arc2140@columbia.edu by Friday, October 17th.

11. Professional Sector Business Sustainability Education

Location: Center for Environmental Research and Conservation

Brief description of anticipated intern tasks:
CERC’s Evening Certificate Program in Conservation Biology serves as a steppint-stone for professionals who seek to understand at a robust level the language, thought process and content of core environmental and sustainability issues such as climate change and biodiversity adaptation, energy and ecosystems services and the interconnectedness ofmarkets and ecosystem services.

The Certificate student body represents professionals from the private sector and the government and non-profit sectors.

CERC has been developing courses in environmental sustainability for about a year in response to input by both the professional student body as ewll as that by its practitioner and science faculty. The next step is to complete these first steps through research on a number of global trends—economic, environmental, financial and social—that can reveal the changing set of conditions faced by decision-makers in both the public and private sectors. We position the research from the point of view of CERC’s distinctive competencies around conservation science, biodiversity adaptation and ecosystem response to climate change. Our ultimate goal is to equip decision-makers with the requisite content and analytic framework to effectively anticipate and respond to external changes within our natural environment. CERC is now positioned to bring together a curriculum in a cohesive package, frame the content and questions as they reflect the product-service life cycle of key business and government sector organization and create a model of training and education that can be brought to to other organizations within given industries.  Specifically, CERC will need a bright, committed, energized and enthusiastic individual who will help with further development and design of the curriculum, packaging and implementation; research individual participants and businesses in the client (student) base; and develop marketing materials  for the Certificate. For more information on CERC please visit www.cerc.columbia.edu.


Skills required: Excellent writing skills, research skills-internet and database searching, ability to work independently, detail oriented and organized, email/computer/internet savvy, good interpersonal skills, ability to interact with a variety of audiences, good graphic abilities a plus, background knowledge in education and/or sustainability, enthusiasm and willingness to contribute ideas to the work and engage in a team effort. Desired but not required skills are knowledge of environmental sustainability and ecosystem services.

Type of student desired: graduate

To apply, students must provide a cover letter stating their interests and abilities and a resume. Only full-time students of Columbia University are eligible for this program. 

Please submit application materials to Amanda Christie at arc2140@columbia.edu by Friday, October 17th.