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Physics

Monique Lieuwen

Monique Lieuwen

Justin Krosschell and Jon Trueblood spent their summer researching outer space under a subcontract grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). They studied how the jet stream in the polar vortices develops and how gases respond to the movement. The study has implications for ozone depletion.

Working with Dr. Doug Allen, Krosschell drew on his combined engineering and physics majors to write software to read and filter satellite data on the movement of air in the stratosphere. In the process, he learned how the equipment limited the data collection and began to understand the technical process of using satellites to study the atmosphere.

Trueblood, who is interested in meteorology, studied computer animations of air flow patterns in the atmosphere.

“Jon spent three weeks on one problem and then found he had been scooped when a paper was published on the same problem. But that is what research is like,” says Allen. He shifted gears and looked in another direction.

“As we worked together, I saw that they had different strengths and interests and nudged them in directions that would build on those strengths,” says Allen. It was a wonderful and surprising realization for him as a teacher.

Monique Lieuwen and Matt Vande Burgt’s research with Allen, funded through a private donor, focused on how the variation in the sun’s output changes in time. They studied what are known as eleven-year cycles.

“Understanding these eleven-year cycles has big implications for understanding climate,” says Allen. Although the two did not find anything particularly remarkable this summer, they were able to quantify variations in the sun’s intensity.