Interview: Maureen Brooks
Blue Waters – Maureen Brooks
Kenny: Hello everyone, and thank you for joining our fourth installment of the NCSA Blue Waters Fellowship interviews. Today I am interviewing Maureen. Hi Maureen, how are you doing?
Maureen: I’m doing very well thank you.
K: Well thank you for joining with us today Maureen. Let me just start off with asking you, can you tell us what your research is about?
M: Sure, so I’m an oceanographer and I’m studying an algae or seaweed called Sargassum. This is a seaweed that, unlike what you’re probably used to thinking of maybe washing up at the beach, it can do that, but it spends actually its entire life floating on the surface of the ocean, instead of anchored to the bottom. And it’s actually the only species in the world, or there’s two species, are the ones in the world that live this way. It’s pretty interesting from that angle. And so what my specific research is doing, is I’ve been looking at the observations of the Sargassum distribution that were observed from satellites, and I’ve been trying to model that distribution. So some previous work that I had done, used just a physical model to do this, and it seemed like that wasn’t enough to really get the full Sargassum distribution. My current work for this project is looking at what the physical and the biological factors that result in the observed pattern that we see in a species.
K: Okay, cool! And did any of your undergraduate work influence you into going into this research?
M: Yeah, absolutely! When I was an undergrad, I majored in both biology and mathematics, and so I’ve always had a bit of a love of both, and I was fortunate enough to take a modeling class as an undergraduate. Just a really simple one, but it ended up getting me an internship at the lab where I’m now getting graduate work.
K: Oh, so you’ve been with them for a while now then?
K: That’s great! So, at what point did you begin wanting to be a part of Blue Waters, and when you did decide that you wanted to apply for the fellowship, what was the process like?
M: So, I found out about the internship via an email that had been sent from my department, that was announcing it, and I thought that it looked like a really great opportunity for me to expand the kind of work that I was doing, and to maybe try for a thing that was a little bit more ambitious than I could accomplish without those kind of resources. I decided to apply for it, I went through the application materials that are available online, and just worked my way through the process. It was really straightforward. I had some assistance with my advisor and my committee going through and just revising my application materials, and making sure I really tailored my application for this particular fellowship, and to really try to come up with a project that was exciting and really make use of the resources.
K: Since becoming a Fellow, have you felt at all that there has been any added expectations, or a sense that your results need to be more accurate, or can you explain to us how it’s felt since joining?
M: Yeah, I’ve been really thrilled to join and to become a Fellow, and I think it’s just been really interesting to have use of this resource. I take pride in the quality of my work, no matter where I’m doing it, but it feels like I’m a part of this really interesting community. And I think one of the things it’s really inspired me to do is to get a little better about communicating my work to others, because the Fellows are all from different backgrounds and different disciplines, just being able to explain what I’m doing to them, and the other folks who are working on Blue Waters has challenged me a bit on my communication skills.
K: So you’ve kind of hinted towards the ability to do things you hadn’t done before Blue Waters, because of the resources that it provides. Can you sort of elaborate in more detail on what those things are, like the positive effects it’s had?
M: Sure, yeah. The modeling work that I had done previously was in an ocean model in the Atlantic Ocean, at a of a ¼ degree resolution, and so what I’ve been able to do by using BLUE WATERS is to increase that to 1/12 degree of resolution. So several factors, higher resolution. And what that allows me to do is to resolve finer scale structures that I couldn’t resolve in the courser model. And also, in particular for my work is, other oceanographers routinely run this type of model at both ¼ and 1/12 degree resolutions, but only the physics sides. It’s kind of what’s unique and exciting about my work is that I can also couple the physics and biology together and run them simultaneously at the high resolution, and that’s pretty unique.
K: Great1 Thank you very much, you definitely taught me a lot, and I also wish that your research continues to go well!
M: Thank you very much.
K: And thank you again for taking the time to interview with me.
M: It was a pleasure.