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!