Hannah Safford, 2013, Chemical and Biological Engineering
I spent eleven weeks in the Caylor Ecohydrology Lab, located at the Mpala Research Center in the highlands of central Kenya, helping to understand and model the hydrologic cycle of dry savanna ecosystems. A key component of this process is the analysis of water vapor in the air over the savannah. I oversaw an extended laboratory experiment that used a technique called isotope fractionation to track water percolating through buckets filled with savannah soil. In addition to becoming familiar with the scientific theory behind isotope fractionation, I learned how to wire dataloggers for the simultaneous automated operation of many different sensors, and became more experienced with writing computer programs to process collected data. Though my home department is chemical and biological engineering, spending the summer interning in a civil engineering lab provided me with valuable insight into the many ways in which the two areas overlap. I enjoyed the opportunity to branch out into a new field, and look forward to participating in more interdisciplinary projects in the future!