Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Fairbanks is Pretty Dope in the Winter

Serene wintry environment with pastel splashed skies

New Years fireworks that remind me of vector fields from Calculus III last semester

More New Years fireworks 

Massive snowbanks from all the plowing
I think Fairbanks is called Fairbanks because all the snowbanks are of fair size,  but the trends seem to be for bigger snowbanks.  That's just my opinion of course.

Ski trails and a frozen lake

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Let's Learn about URSA!

     URSA is more than an acronym for Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity. Those words represent opportunity and discovery, open to every undergraduate student. As their slogan says, “don’t just gain knowledge—create it.”

     I spoke with URSA Coordinator, Kate Pendleton, and URSA Co-Director, Dr. Trent Sutton, to learn more. The information provided beneath each topic is paraphrased from each of their interviews.

What is URSA?

Sutton: At least 41 percent of undergraduates are already involved in research at UAF.

Pendleton: Each semester, more students apply for URSA grants. URSA is open to every undergraduate.

Who is eligible?

Sutton: URSA promotes research and scholarly activity.

Pendleton: “You don’t have to be at the top of your class or the most motivated student.” Any undergraduate can apply and reapply for URSA grants each semester. Students at all UA campuses, including rural sites, can apply too. “URSA is trying very hard to make sure anyone in any discipline has access to research.”

What can my project be?

Sutton: Anything a student wants to do, not just hard science, is eligible. Directing a play or creating a sculpture are examples of quality scholarly activities we encourage as well.

Pendleton: Students pick a project based off what they are interested in, or dig deeper into research they do as a student employee. Projects have included creating bowls, researching the effects of the drug spice, studying lampreys, and displaying art and writing. “Whatever it is that a student is interested in, they get funding to do that.”

What does it take to apply?

Once a student has an idea, they need to find a mentor. The mentor will help with the application and guide the student through their project.

Pendleton: Finding a graduate student or faculty member with similar interests is the easiest way to get a mentor.

Then, the student will apply for an URSA grant by way of an online application.

Sutton: There were thirty-eight submissions for the spring 2016 grant.

After, the applications are reviewed and grant recipients are contacted.

What is the application review process like?

Sutton: The URSA Co-directors, Dr. Trent Sutton and Dr. Barbara Taylor, review each proposal. Faculty representing the sciences and arts also review applications. Each proposal is reviewed by 3-4 faculty members. Then, the proposals are ranked by score on a spreadsheet and the prize money cut-off is determined.

What can I use the money for?

Pendleton: There are five awards each year, including two for projects, two for travel, and one $5000 summer research award. Faculty can also get mentoring funds. The awards are a stipend so that students can do research instead of having to get a job.  

Travel grants can pay for travel to the research site or help people attend a conference they couldn’t otherwise afford, either to present a paper or just attend and learn more.

Sutton: We gave out over $3000 in 2015.

What if I get the award?
Pendleton: If students receive a grant, they present at Research Day at the end of April. Students from each college compete and present their research.

What if I don’t get the award?

Even if a person doesn’t get a grant, URSA is helpful.

Pendleton: Students may do a masters project based on their URSA project. URSA is a learning process that people can use as a model when applying for larger grants.

Sutton: URSA work can help students build a resume and is a good primer for what grad school will be like. Hands-on learning is where students can reinforce what they learn in class. The book part comes to action. Furthermore, students learn to communicate their data to give it meaning, even for people who don’t have background with their project.

If you are interested in research, scholarly activity, or attending a conference, contact URSA!

Sutton: They can place you with a faculty member, find funding for you, and help you gain new experience

Pendleton: “There is something to be learned by all of it.”

Visit URSA in room 301 of the Bunnell Building
Call URSA at 907-450-8772
Visit their website at

Monday, December 7, 2015

All about the Alaska Legislative Internship Program

It was just over a year ago that I was sitting in my Intro to Natural Resource Management class when a visitor came in bearing brochures and asked to briefly talk about the University of Alaska Legislative Internship Program. This program accepts students from UAF (Fairbanks), UAA (Anchorage), and UAS (Juneau) to move to Juneau during the spring session to work for a senator or representative as an intern. This isn’t your typical internship where you might spend three months getting you boss coffee every morning. 
Instead, you are treated as a full-time staff member and have the opportunity to participate in research, tracking and moving legislation, communicating with constituents, meeting with lobbyists and other staff, and possibly drafting and managing your own piece of legislation. As an added bonus, there are often stipends awarded as well as relocation allowances. 

I was very interested, but, being a Rural Development student with very little knowledge of politics, thought it highly unlikely that I would have a chance at being selected. Despite this, I went ahead and applied in October, hoping for the best. The application was relatively simple and required a cover letter, resume, two letters of recommendation, a writing sample, and a short research paper proposal idea. 
A few weeks later I was notified that I had been accepted into the program! Ever since I received that exciting email, it has been a crazy few weeks of phone interviews with senators and representatives who are all eagerly searching for interns. There are only nine students, and 23 offices who are hoping to bring on an intern. Because of this, I was receiving 5-10 phone calls a day for about two weeks until I made my decision. 
I finally picked the office that I believe will best fit my passions and interests, and will be headed to Juneau for the Spring 2016 semester where I will receive 12 credits that will transfer back to UAF when I complete the program. I am thrilled that I have an opportunity such as this to gain first-hand experience and utilize what I have been studying for the past five semesters.

I share this experience with you to let you know that if you are looking for a school with unique opportunities that will prepare you for a career after college, then UAF may just be the school for you! There are opportunities here that you may not get anywhere else, and doors may open that you never thought would be possible. 

For some more info about the University of Alaska Legislative Internship Program, visit their website:

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Word on the Street: Thanksgiving Edition!

Before Thanksgiving break, Jessica, Daniel, and I walked around campus asking UAF students "What do you look forward to this Thanksgiving break?" and "What is your favorite part about Thanksgiving?" These are the answers we got:

What do you look forward to in the holidays? Answer below! And stay tuned, more Q&A photos coming soon!

Any questions you want us to ask UAF students? Ask below.

Monday, November 30, 2015

The College of Engineering and Mines

Hey! Have you ever thought of being an engineer? What do engineers do? Is it hard to become an engineer? Well than you are in the right place. I have been at UAF for four years now and am about to graduate with a B.S. in mechanical engineering. Since I've been here I have learned about the many different opportunities that the College of Engineering and Mines (CEM) has to offer.

Degrees offered:
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Mining Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Geological Engineering
  • Petroleum Engineering

The College of Engineering and Mines is housed in the Duckering Building. For many years UAF has sought to expand its engineering program and in 2012 work had begun on expansion to Duckering. This new expansion would join Duckering and Bunnel, with the connecting building containing new labs and work spaces. What CEM lacked was space in order to house a vast range of student projects. This new expansion would include numerous labs and a central area.

What makes UAF a good place to study engineering? Well the main reason is that it has very good faculty to student ratio, meaning that the classes are smaller. Most of my class are from 40 to 20 students, which is not bad compared to other colleges where classes are commonly in the hundreds.
The College of Engineering Mines also has plenty of student organizations in order to get involved with outreach and projects. The one I am most closely affiliated with is the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. CEM is also involved with many engineering competitions such as Concrete Canoe and Steel Bridge. Just this semester I became the lead student for CEM's Collegiate Wind Competition team, Arctic Winds.

Arctic Winds in front of the new Engineering Building

These competitions allow us to work with real engineering problems and to design solutions. The Collegiate Wind Competition challenges students to design and build a small wind turbine for off-grid applications. In addition to building the turbine we also have to make a business plan and deployment strategy for fielding the turbine. 


Designing the turbine is also my senior design project, which is supposed to show off all the cool stuff we learned in our engineering classes. It's very different going from all the theory in the textbooks to actually applying them to real world problems. Its fun and gives the team members a chance to gain valuable experience. 

"Just doin' some science here."

This added experience really gives us an edge compared to other students when trying to get jobs. When employers look at your resume, they almost immediately look for projects to see what experience, if any, you have. 

So what do engineers do? Well, we take lots of math classes and classes that use math. These might be classes like fluid mechanics, where we look at how things such as water behaves in pipes. Or thermodynamics, where we learn why we feel colder in Washington at 20 C than we do in Fairbanks at -10 C. After we take classes like those we can then apply the principles to "engineer" solutions. 

My particular job for Arctic Winds is to help design a control and power system. Or in other words make sure that we can put out steady power to charge, lets say your cellphone. I use what I have learned in classes like elements of electrical engineering and digital electronics to look at current solutions to then apply them to what we need. 

"Yup, total get this."

In all its a lot of fun and the challenge makes it worth it. UAF has many different competitions that students can jump onto to gain experience. If you're looking at going to UAF, just drop by the Duckering Building and see whats going on! Most student organizations are happy to show off what they are working on and there are posters along the building hallways that show what students have done in the past. 

Hope you enjoyed the long post!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Alaska: Where Your Sense of "Normal" Will Change

Alaskans aren't your typical type of people.
Photo by Deanna D Knutson
For example, they like to do yoga in the snow

Photo by Deanna D Knutson
Here in Alaska, temperature is just a number. Whether it's 100F or -20F, Alaskans will be outside taking advantage of the beautiful outdoors.

Photo by Deanna D Knutson
People do go out and enjoy the -40F temperatures too, but only for short periods to jump out of their car and snap a photo at the UAF sign.

Photo from UAF Staff Report
Every year once the temperature gets at least below -35F people are out there is all sorts of clothes, or lack thereof, posing and freezing their butts off.

People partake in activities like the Polar Plunge, an event where people fund raise and once they have enough, they jump into a big hole cut out of a lake.
Photo from Pete
Or they participate in the Slush Cup at Alyeska ski resort

Photo credit to Lisa Gill004

Because here in Alaska, when the whether gets cold it doesn't mean you have to come indoors, it just means you do something different. Like apparently wear less clothing. 

Photo by Deanna D Knutson