Episode 30: Stamatina Hunter

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Episode 30: Stamatina Hunter
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This episode is a part of the NASA
Student Opportunities podcast series.

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Show Notes

Special Guest: Stamatina Hunter, Earth Systems Science Research class participant

(0:00) Intro

(0:19) NASA's Education Associates  → project offers internships for students or faculty members at U.S. colleges or universities, postdoctoral fellows, and active K-12 teachers.

(1:01) Letters of intent are due Sept. 19, 2007, for NASA's Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Project  →.

(1:47) Interview with Stamatina Hunter. American Meteorological Society scholarship recipient Stamatina Hunter talks about her winning high school research project.

          NASA Student Features
          NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Education Projects

(10:29) End

Send your comments or questions to: educationpodcast@nasa.gov

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Deana Nunley: This is NASA Student Opportunities -- a podcast connecting high school and college students with learning opportunities inside America's space agency.

Episode 30. Sept. 12, 2007. I'm Deana Nunley.

Several unique internships are offered through NASA's Education Associates project. Internships run from two to 12 months and are for students or faculty members at U.S. colleges or universities, postdoctoral fellows, and active K-12 teachers.

During their internships, education associates work with scientists, engineers and project managers at a NASA center. The associates work on projects that run the gamut of NASA's missions -- from the space shuttle to exploring the solar system or extreme environments on Earth. Most of the positions are at Ames Research Center in California, and the internships can start and stop at any time. The project is limited to U.S. nationals and permanent resident aliens.

And a quick reminder: Letters of intent are due Sept. 19, 2007, for NASA's Reduced Gravity Student Flight Opportunities Project. This project offers undergraduate students the unique academic experience to successfully propose, design, build, fly and evaluate a reduced-gravity experiment. Students and their experiments fly on NASA’s “Weightless Wonder.” The letter of intent is optional, but serves as an introductory notice that a team plans to submit a proposal for the upcoming competition. Final proposals are due Oct. 31, 2007.

You'll find links to more information in this week's show notes. Go to www.nasa.gov/podcast and click on the NASA Student Opportunities podcast.


Stamatina Hunter graduated from Catoctin High School in Thurmont, Md., in June. She won awards and scholarships for science research projects she completed during her last couple of years in high school -- a direct benefit of taking an Earth Systems Science Research class offered through a partnership between NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the Frederick County, Md., public school system. Stamatina won a first place award at the Frederick County Science Fair and a $2,000 scholarship from the American Meteorological Society.

Stamatina Hunter I had done a project. It was for my graduation project primarily. It was just an independent research project, and it was entitled "An Investigation on the Effects of the Solar Cycle and Milankovitch Cycles on Global Temperature Anomalies Versus Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions." I had entered the science fair, and I had gotten a certificate from the American Meteorological Society in recognition for my research. And then later, I had gotten a letter from them inviting me to a banquet. They later called me -- a couple weeks after the letter had come -- and told me that I had been the recipient of the scholarship, and [asked me if I could] come June 13 to the banquet and receive the $2,000 from meteorologist Tony Pann. So, it kind of just happened that way, and it was really exciting and a really cool opportunity.

Deana: What kinds of things did you learn during your research project?

Stamatina: It was definitely an experience. I ended up learning a lot about the actual things I was researching. I didn't really know much about the Milankovitch cycles. I had never heard the term before, until I actually started studying them, and I found out there are variations in the Earth's tilt and orbit. I learned a lot about that.

And I learned even more kind of "life lessons," I guess you could say -- just learning how to go about finding the information that you need, and putting it together and making sense of your findings so that other people can understand them. So it was definitely a very big learning process for me, and I feel a lot more confident and a lot more comfortable now that I've actually done a project on my own.

I had a lot of guidance from my teacher, Ms. Lisa Bruck. She is the Earth systems science research teacher. She also teaches physics. She had started the class at Catoctin, and I had taken the class [my] junior year. I had done a project [my] junior year, and I had done the same thing, and I went to Goddard [Space Flight Center] and I presented it.

Well, my senior year, I wasn't able to take the class again, because you can't take it twice. But I was her aide for one of her classes. And while I was her aide, I was also doing my graduation project, because you have to do a graduation project in order to graduate. It has to be some kind of research or something. And I knew I wanted mine to be science-based. So I used that opportunity to conduct a research project similar to what her ESSR classes, her Earth systems science research classes, were doing. And I went along. I kind of just tagged along, and I went to Goddard with them this year to present my project as well. And I went ahead and I entered in the science fair because I had it completed in time. But it was definitely a very independent project for me. I spent a lot of time, pretty much two blocks a day, doing research and putting this project together. So it was a lot of work, and I feel like it has paid off for me.

Deana: You mentioned going to Goddard Space Flight Center. Did you have some interaction with some of the experts, or people that are studying weather or climate there?

Stamatina: Yeah, I actually did. It was really interesting to actually talk to people who were studying and researching the same things I had been researching. There weren't as many scientists this year at the symposium, but it was still very special and it was still a really awesome opportunity. I spoke to a couple of scientists. I spoke to some scientists who had similar thinking as I did, and I spoke to some scientists who kind of disagreed with my theories. And so it was really cool to kind of hear both sides and get both of the theories that are going on right now about climate change and global warming.

Deana: What are your theories? I'm curious.

Stamatina: Well, I have been hearing a lot in the news and the media about global warming and climate change. I'm sure a lot of other people have. And looking at it, I was hearing a lot about it being primarily man-made -- people were causing our climate to change because of the burning of fossil fuels and whatnot, things that would put CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And I was kind of a little confused, because I thought, "There's got to be something a little bit deeper, something a little bit more than that, than just to say it's one factor." We know our planet is so complex and there [are] so many different cycles occurring at the same time, over long periods of time and short periods of time. And I just thought that maybe there's something more natural and more cyclic occurring.

I focused primarily on the solar cycle and the Milankovitch cycles. That's not to say that there are no other variables that cause global warming, because, in my opinion, I think that there are. I think a lot of other things [are] going on. Scientists are looking at volcanic activity, the movement of tectonic plates, even the carbon cycle and its fluctuation. So I just focused on the solar cycle and Milankovitch cycles. And to me, I had found a mostly positive correlation between the solar cycle and our increased temperature over the past century or so.

Deana: Is this area of research something you want to continue to pursue through college and your career?

Stamatina: Yeah, definitely, if I'm going to be trying to study meteorology. But I would like to continue my research because there are still so many things that I don't really know. There are many things that the scientists don't even know about our planet and what's going on. And I would love to really pursue that and get to the bottom of things and uncover new findings and make discoveries. I would love to do that. I want to know as much as I can about our planet and what's going on, so that I can make some predictions and make some accurate hypotheses.

Deana: What do you think you'll do as far as your career? Do you see yourself, long-term, as say a researcher at NASA? Or what are you leaning toward?

Stamatina: I've been asked that a lot. And at this point, I'm kind of just ready for anything. I could see myself doing several things. I think it would be really exciting to get into forecasting and broadcasting and being on TV, giving the weather. Or I think it would be awesome to be like a storm chaser, going down after hurricanes and tornadoes. Or even just being a research scientist and just finding stuff. I could really see myself going in either direction right now, so I think I'm just going to start my classes and just see where I end up going. I'm just ready for anything. I'm excited.

Deana: What advice would you offer high school students who are considering a career in a technical field, or maybe looking to get involved with NASA?

Stamatina: I would just say, "Don't doubt yourself." I think it's really intimidating. And especially for a girl going into science, it's very intimidating because it's mostly a male-dominated field. And it's going to be difficult, but you have to tell yourself that you can do it. And I know I was very fortunate to be able to be at Catoctin. Even though it's a really small school, we're one of the only schools in the county that has Earth systems science research. And from there, that was kind of my way of getting involved with NASA and research and things like that. But to students that don't really have that opportunity, but who still want to pursue that career, I would say, "Try to come in contact with people. Do a science fair project if that's what you're interested in, because from that, you will get to meet with people from NOAA [National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration] and the American Meteorological Society and other places like that that have involvement with NASA that will be able to point you in the right direction."

I've definitely made a lot of contacts by doing my projects and by earning some scholarships here and there. It's really helpful. So I'd just say, "Get your name out there, find what you're interested in, and go for it." And don't have any doubts. Just do it.

Deana: Stamatina Hunter plans to begin her studies in meteorology at Penn State University this fall. You can find more science information for students by following the links in this week's show notes. Go to www.nasa.gov/podcast, and click on the NASA Student Opportunities podcast.

We want to hear from you. If you have any questions or comments about NASA learning opportunities, send an e-mail to: educationpodcast@nasa.gov

Thanks for listening.

NASA Student Opportunities is a podcast production of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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