Michelle-Ann Tan ’16


Molecular Biology

Project Title

Biological and Physical Controls on Phytoplankton Growth in the Southern Ocean

In the Department of Commerce Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab (GFDL), scientists have developed a computer model called the ESM2M, meant to portray physical and chemical trends and interactions in the ocean and atmosphere all over the world. However, there has been a discrepancy between the way the model portrays chlorophyll concentration seasonality in the Southern Ocean and our observations of this seasonality based on BioArgo floats and other field data collections. This summer, I worked with Dr. Rebecca Asch in the Sarmiento Group to further investigate what biological and physical controls of chlorophyll concentration in the Southern Ocean are most important according to the ESM2M, how these controls work according to the ESM2M, and how these controls might be different according to our observations. I used the graphing and statistical tools in Matlab to observe the nature and strength of these control-to-phytoplankton concentration relationships to better understand what was going on in the model. Though not directly related to the research I might undertake as a future molecular biologist, my internship was an enriching experience. I developed Matlab skills, which can take on many different applications; I learned to appreciate the integrated nature of the science of oceanography; and I learned to appreciate the work that goes into a model and the importance of accurate models.

Internship Year


Project Category



Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences Department, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ


Stephen Pacala, Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology