Friday, December 5, 2014

A Novel Perspective

So I love reading. I know every academically-inclined person generally does too, but for me, its on the the one thing I would choose to have if stranded on a desert island would be a book level. I can’t live without them! Unfortunately, classes, homework, and work tend to impinge on my personal reading time. With a sad heart, I have to put reading a novel I adore at the bottom of my priority list. Thus, while I am passing my classes and holding down my part-time job, my reading appetite remains unsatiated.

In those precious moments of free time though, I read away! When I can finally get through a book, I then feel lost until I acquire one to read next. When picking out a good read, usually I’d go for something that is as far removed from any semblance of my college student life. Fantasy, romance, mystery, drama- yes, please! But a few weeks ago when I finally got through A Feast for Crows (I <3 you GoT), I decided to pick up a book that had been almost forgotten on my bookshelf, in the somber shadow of my many, bank-account draining textbooks.

The book, titled North Country Challenge, was a Christmas gift from my mom, which I was extremely appreciative of despite my lack of promptness in getting around to read it. Pro-tip- when in doubt, books make great gifts for pretty much any occasion. Or even better- take your gift-receiver out to a cozy, local bookstore, let them make their selection, and buy it for them! Just add coffee/tea and good conversation for an awesome time.

But back to my anecdote, my mom had ever so thoughtfully found this book at a discount book store and gave it to me because it’s author was none other than Ernest Patty. Dr. Patty was a professor of Geology and Mining in UAF’s inaugural year of classes (named the Alaska Agricultural College and School of Mines back then in 1922), Dean of the College and Head of the School of Mines for ten years, the college’s 3rd president, and namesake of the Patty Center, just to name a few of his notaritities. North Country Challenge is his autobiography, a narrative of his own adventure north to Alaska. Dr. Patty was extremely influential in keeping the college alive during it’s tenuous early years. He ensured that new academic programs were added and enrollment increased, and made countless contributions to the field of mining engineering. Yet, this book was so much more than just his accomplishments.

Through this book, Dr. Patty truly brings the reader back to Alaska as it was in his time- wild, raw, and full of promise. It gave me a deep appreciation for the people who dared to make their homes up here, when it was still such a harsh existence. The first few students of the college are undeniably an inspiration too, they made up a class of 21 and started a legacy of learning and growing in this beautiful place, on the fringe where civilization meets wilderness. I feel that every UAF student should read Dr. Patty’s story or learn about the lives of any of the other amazing individuals who helped found this university.

Here is a picture of my copy of North Country Challenge.

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I was blown away when I realized the copy that had found its way to my hands was signed by the author!

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Every book that I read leaves a part of itself with me, but this one will definitely have a special place in my book-lover’s heart.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Getting Involved and Traveling Opportunities

Hello blog readers!

I am a 5th year Electrical Engineering UAF student and the topic I will be talking about in today’s blog is the various activities I've become involved in on campus as an electrical engineering student.

Today's topic: Traveling while you’re at school when involved in extracurricular activities.

First, let me tell you some examples of the activities I was involved in that allowed me to travel. During the spring semester of May 2014, finals week, I traveled to Las Vegas with a team of engineering. I was involved in a Wind Turbine Competition. The Wind Turbine Competition was started for the first time in 2013 by the Department of Energy (DOE), and only 10 universities had the privilege to participate in this event. The team at UAF consisted of several mechanical engineering students who had used the competition as there senior design project for the blade and body design competition. There were also two electrical engineering students (including myself), who worked on the electronics part of the design to control the power of the turbine. The competition required a design of a working small scale turbine, speeches to be made to the judges from many well-known companies (e.g. General Electric (GE)). There were three categories of speeches: technical turbine design, business plan, and a quick pitch to the audience. We had one business student to volunteer for the competition in assisting with the business portion. Our experience participating in the Wind Turbine Competition made my teammates and I realize the amount of time and effort that it takes to complete a project that students are completely new to, as well as trying to recruit volunteers to help assist in the business and engineering parts. The first competition had changed the rules many times during the progress of the 1 year time given to the students. The rules weren't thought out the best, but since it was the first competition things were still being figured out. In the end, aside from scheduling conflicts during finals week, we had completed the competition and it was fun.

I am also involved in a club called the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), as a leader member, and have been able to travel to a few places. The IEEE student branch was able to set up a field trip to the Chena Hot Springs to visit the plant there and have the owner of Chena speak about his experience and work. Furthermore, I recently went to a leadership training in Portland, Oregon for one day. This allowed me to meet all the other leaders from other schools and learn how to manage a student branch club.

Lastly, I attended a scholarship banquet down in Anchorage, Alaska because I was able to be involved in IEEE and was acknowledged for my performances. I am now planning to set up a way to travel to Las Vegas once again to attend a conference with our fellow IEEE members. The conference is called the Rising Stars Conference in which many of the famous electrical engineers or IEEE members gather to speak to attendees. Other programs I’ve attended involve a career fair, leadership activities, and opportunities to network. During the conference, other conference are also in session. One example was the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) which showcased electronics that will be coming out in the next year or two.

These are some examples of how you can travel when you are involved in extracurricular activities as there are a lot out there to get involved in. Always remember to be involved in the activities or clubs. Student activities and clubs are a great way to become involved on campus and get more out of the college experience.

How to apply for travel funds and obtain funding:

Depending on the extracurricular activity, not everyone is fortunate to travel... but a club or activity can find funding to be able to travel if they have plans, such as the one described about the IEEE Conference in Las Vegas or field trips to Chena Hot Springs. One way to find funding at UAF is to speak to the Associates Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks; student government or ASUAF for short. The process of applying for travel funds is to obtain the travel funds form and fill out the required information. It is best advised to not delay the form as the deadlines happen near the end of the second month of school. Advisor signatures, trip information, budget sheets are some examples of requested information. Travel can happen anytime of the year until the end of next semester and funds are solely reimbursable, so hold onto all of your receipts. Other ways to find funding for your travel opportunities include fundraising events, funding from established campus organizations (e.g. IEEE) or outside sources. Do be careful with the rules when it comes to asking for donations from sources outside of UAF. Cautionary measures are advised via student organization meetings. More information can be found (here) and or can visit the student organization office in the Wood Center.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Summer with Alaska Department of Fish and Game on the Susitna River

Just another day at the office
Imagine living in the woods next to a river with no running water for 3.5 months… This was my summer internship with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G).  And I absolutely loved it!
Morning shift fish wheel check
It all started in a huge search for internships with ADF&G and similar agencies, like US Fish and Wildlife. ADF&G had the most to offer, so I began the application process. I applied for 6 internships around the state including: Fairbanks, Glennallen, Anchorage, Palmer, Kodiak and Dutch Harbor. Cover letters were written, resumes edited and application packets scanned and sent.Then the wait for a call for an interview began. Fairbanks and Palmer called, interviews were completed. Finally, it all ended with a call from both Fairbanks and Palmer, and both with job offers. I was so incredibly excited! I got the call from Palmer while I was in Fred Meyers, and I couldn’t help but leap around with excitement and do a little happy dance! I accepted the College Intern II position with the Palmer Sport Fish division.

Drift net shift!
Right after school was out for the summer, I was headed down to Palmer to start work. There was about a week of in-town work, then we packed up the boats, headed to the field and never looked back. The first few days were spent setting up camp: putting up our tents, unpacking tools, assembling the kitchen tent, organizing the office tent, pretty much getting everything habitable for the months to come. Then came the launching of the fish wheels. This was quite an undertaking that included a lot of rope, some PVC rollers and a barge to pull them off the bank where they were stored on for the winter. Here’s a video of the launch for one of the fish wheels: https://vimeo.com/112847233. Once the live boxes were attached, the fish wheels were moved into their spots along the river bank and we started spinning the fish wheels. A few days later, we started counting and tagging Chinook (king) salmon, and this marked the start of our 2014 field season.
Season record:1190mm/ 46.8 in
Our primary focus was to count all the fish that came through the fish wheels, for abundance estimates and radio tag Chinook (king), Coho (silver), and Pink salmon to track spawning distributions, as well as pull scales on Sockeye (red) salmon for aging purposes.
During Chinook season, we had 2 fish wheel crews and one drift net crew. Drift net shifts were everyone’s favorite, especially when the fishing was good! But for Coho season, there was no drift net shift, just fish wheels, sad. For both fish wheels and drift net, healthy fish were tagged and injured or sickly fish were counted then promptly returned to the river to continue their journey to their spawning grounds. It was really cool to see some of the injuries fish could get though, and it was often indicative of what tried to eat the fish. Injuries ranged from toothed whales like belugas, to seals, to squid, to various sharks, and lets not forget the elusive Dagger tooth.
A shark attack survivor
One of a fishes many predators, but oh so adorable











Not only was the job super awesome, but I made some great friends while working out there. My crew mates were awesome. For Chinook season there were 6 of us, then for Coho season we went down to a 4 person crew. And what a fun crew we had! We often stayed up late playing games, laughing, watching movies, or discussing life or the vastness of space.
Now you’re probably still wondering about the living situation… It was a unique situation, but it was pretty neat too. The kitchen area was a weatherport tent with all the modern amenities except a microwave. We had a propane stove and refrigerator. We had called in a grocery list once a week and groceries were delivered a day or so later by boat from town. But what about a shower you say? We had a shower stall constructed of plywood with a small propane heated shower unit so we had warm water for our showers… most of the time. There were occasionally shower issues in which case we heated water on the stove and took a bucket shower, which was just as good as any other shower! And finally the outhouse… The outhouse was awesome! Just a typical outhouse with a window that afforded you a nice view of the river, and the sunset/sunrise if you happened to be there at the right time of day.
Farewell Mainstem
Overall it was a great summer! I learned a ton and I’m a halfway decent boat operator now. And I can honestly say, I surprised myself a little bit. I figured I’d adjust to living in a tent on a riverbank with no running water alright, but I never realized how much I would like it. I took to that lifestyle really well and ended up loving it out there. It was especially cool when the coyotes would sing to each other at 2 am. There’s nothing like it!
Thank you Alaska Department of Fish and Game for offering such awesome internships! It was a summer I’ll remember for a long time! See ya’ll next year.



Monday, November 10, 2014

Heat Is Neat, Frost Doesn’t Cost, But Ice Isn’t Nice

Weather in Fairbanks is a unique beast to deal with. The temperature ranges around mid-80s in the summer time to frigid winter colds of 40 below. Many people would question how to live in such conditions, but there are many methods for dealing with this madness. Most incoming students arrive in the fall semester. During this time, sunny days can reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remember those parkas you brought? Probably would be a good idea to make a trip to Value Village - local thrift shop in Fairbanks -  by either bus or by bumming a ride from a nice friend with a car. This is the time of the academic year to get outside every chance you can get and enjoy the weather!

However, this initial warm glow from the weather dies down around October. Here temperatures begin a gradual decline (or sometimes suddenly plummet) into winter.  There is still enough daylight that one may be confused about how the temperature can be a bit chilly. Still no need for a parka; a windbreaker or thick hoodie will give a nourishing hug of warmth on the scramble between buildings.

Once November hits there is most likely going to be a fresh layer of snow on the ground.  Now, for those of you that are not used to snow, there is nothing terrible about snow...unless of course you have to shovel whole driveways at which point snow is not your friend. The most unpleasant part of winter isn’t the frost rather the ice. Even as temperatures drop to the point of feeling that your eyes may freeze, it is easy to bundle up with layer after layer. No one will judge you for wearing long johns, jeans, snow pants, two hoodies, arctic jacket, and a face mask to class.

Ice is a difficult foe to conquer. Even the nimblest of walkers eventually fall prey to a slip on a glazed patch of dastardly ice. To conquer the ice, seek out a pair of ice cleats sponsored by the UAF Office of Environmental Health, Safety & Risk Management (EHSRM). These ice cleats are plastic shoe sole covers that add small metal spikes to the bottom of your shoes. Once wearing the ice cleats, slick patches of ice are child’s play.  No more will you sore your body, and your pride, by falling in public places with an excess of observers. As a bonus they are easy to apply and remove!

Finally, in March, warm temperatures begin to thaw the Fairbanks and the UAF campus.  Dreaded ice begins to melt, daylight increases, and temperatures rise. Breezes no longer feel like bone rippling chills but rather a refreshment of warmth.  Everything only gets better towards the end of the semester when the green grass returns and you are left with finals completed and a warm tingle of accomplishment in your heart.     

The Circus is at UAF!

Gymnasts, Aerial Artists, and Acrobats galore:
If you're like me and have ever had the distant (or maybe not-so-distant) dream of running away and joining the circus, then UAF is the place for you! You can put that running away bit to the side for a few more years, though, because all of our circus groups meet right here, on campus, in our very own Student Recreation Center (SRC). So, whether your end goal is to be an aerial performer in Cirque du Soleil, an acrobat on America's Got Talent, or a contortionist in Las Vegas, come check us out!


Aerial Silks
See them flying, soaring, gracefully twisting and turning between two streams of silk. But don't just sit back and watch, there is no better time than now to join them! As the saying goes here at UAF: "there's a club for that." Our Aurora Aerial Arts club was founded just last school year, but since then it has become quite the hit on campus. Students from all walks of life, study interests and skill levels are invited and encouraged to take part; this club turns absolutely no one away. They meet twice a week in the dance studio of the SRC (Monday & Wednesday, 8 - 9:30pm). Stop by and learn the basic locks, knots, and seemingly impossible moves; or if you are a veteran of the arts, come hone your skills, spread your knowledge and even choreograph a routine with your fellow aerial fanatics.

Stick around at the end of the aerial session, and you may even be invited to join the acrobats as they practice the new moves they've seen in YouTube videos over the course of the week...



Partner Acrobatics
This bunch can be seen performing absolutely anywhere, anytime. Since they require no further equipment beyond a partner and a decent amount of trust, you can catch them hand-standing on someone's shoulders, flipping on someone's feet or just posing in some crazy position in front of some cool landmark anywhere on or off campus. From its simple beginnings as an offshoot of the aerial silks club, partner acrobatics has become a small community on campus. They are no official club at the moment, but they do have regular meetings in the SRC dance studio as well (after silks on Monday & Wednesday, and Thursday, 6:30pm - whenever). However, if those meeting times don't work perfectly for you, don't sweat it! This fun-loving group is very flexible (pun intended) and meets just about whenever, wherever outside of the regular schedule. They will work with you as long as you, too, share an interest in fun, inclusion and adventure.

But maybe partner work isn't really your style, UAF has something for you as well!



Yoga
Have you ever wondered just how those contortionists on TV can twist their bodies in such insane positions? Or maybe how someone can stay so composed and balanced on a tight-rope (or slackline)? The answer is yoga. Yoga is a great way to steadily get into shape while also maintaining good flexibility. At UAF, multiple yoga classes are offered for all students. There are beginner classes as well as classes for the more experienced yogis. We even have my personal favorite: hot yoga! So if you need a class to calm your nerves, or maybe one to get those abdominal muscles working, UAF has something for you!

So come check us out and help build our circus family!

The complete list of clubs on campus can be found at: http://www.uaf.edu/studentorgs

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Yoga Class

This semester my friend Emmie and I signed up for our first recreation class. The decision was based on being able to see each other during our hectic week and on the side try something new.... so yoga it was. We would be able to spend an hour every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday together practicing. 

All we needed was a yoga mat and an open mind: our expectation was for the class to revolve around meditation and stretching, but it has been so much more.

Our first class focused on learning the basic poses and "flows" like downward dog and sun salutation. It must have been a funny sight to see us attempt simple balance exercises which resulted in us toppling over. It is important to note that in the first class neither of us could touch our toes! The instructor stressed that in yoga do only as much as you can do. Much to our surprise, by the end of the hour both of us collapsed on our mats exhausted - who knew that yoga was such a workout!

Over the past month and a half, we have learned how to use deep breathing to stay focused throughout the day. Every class ends in shavasana (corpse pose), which is the easiest pose - try it right now! 

Lay on the floor and simply close your eyes and think about nothing. Of course this happens to be my favorite pose and (if done correctly) can take some focus in order to clear your mind.

The instructor told us at the start of the semester that yoga would find a way into each of our lives - when I heard that, I silently chuckled as I couldn't imagine myself taking the time to just sit and focus on my breath. However, I was wrong. I encourage you to look at different classes: who knows what it could teach you. As for me, I am already searching for my "fun class" next semester and will continue to touch my toes every morning!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Not Every University

Every university can boast about their students, faculty, staff, location, etc. But there are some things fairly unique to the University of Alaska Fairbanks that are certainly worth mentioning. So I have compiled a list of 30 things that UAF does/has that not every university does for your reading pleasure!

Not Every University...

1. Has a School of Management that boasts 100% job placement rate for undergraduates that complete their Accounting Degree, and the College of Engineering and Mines has nearly that same job placement rate for all undergraduates who complete a degree. 

2. Has 7 different types of Engineering Degrees-- Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, Geological Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mining Engineering, and Computer Engineering. They also have a Computer Science Degree.

3. Has a ski and snowboard terrain park. Ours is conveniently located close to the Student Recreation Center, and there is a program on campus where you can rent gear to use both on and off campus (Outdoor Adventures). More information here.

4. Has a brand new dining facility (just finished this fall!) called Dine49, plus a brand new cafe with extended hours, Arctic Java.

5. Has an office specifically designed to promote volunteerism and leadership (the Leadership Involvement and Volunteer Experience office, which we call LIVE). 

6. Has on campus housing specifically for people who want to live a more sustainable and environmentally friendly lifestyle (the Sustainable Village).

7. Not only gives students an opportunity to graduate with Leadership Honors, but also has a Leadership Minor.

8. Has a shuttle system with a heated waiting area for students wanting a ride to a different part of campus.

9. Has a student ID that doubles as a bus pass for the city bus system.

10. Gives their students free passes to D I and D II sports.

11. Has on campus student housing available for 365 days a year.

12. Has an expansion of the engineering building in the works that will result in a LEED Silver Certification for Green Building Standards, and connect the College of Engineering and Mines with the Bunnell building, which houses the School of Management.

13. Has over 100 active student clubs and organizations, with the opportunity for anyone to start a new one every semester.

14. Organizes buses to drive students almost 300 miles to watch their hockey team play their biggest rivals in the Governer's Cup hockey match at the end of March. This takes place during Winter Carnival, one of our three Nanook Traditions (Starvation Gulch, Winter Carnival, and SpringFest).

15. Has an on-campus pub that, due to its strict ID checking policy and the fact that it only serves beer and wine, reduces the instances of drunk driving, and provides a safe environments for students of age to drink.

16. Has (as of 2013) an 11:1 student to faculty ratio.

17. Has instituted a program that provides a study group leader to the traditionally more difficult classes. We call them Supplemental Instructors, and they are present in many science classes.

18. Has an office dedicated to helping students get started/fund undergraduate research. It's called the Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activities office.

19. Has a  university owned rocket launch station (Poker Flats), which is sponsored by the Geophysical Institute under contract to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility.

20. Houses the Alaska Interior Medical Education Summit, which is a full day of panels and presentations on different careers paths after college for anyone interested in the medical field.

21. Hosts a week long, campus wide Humans Versus Zombies game that any student of UAF is welcome to join.

22. Has a community of people who choose to live without water in "dry cabins".

23. Has every piece of literature ever written on Alaska Native Languages.

24. Has housing specifically for students from rural areas of Alaska, called the Eileen Panigeo MacLean House.

25. Has an outdoor rock climbing wall that, in the winter, is turned into an ice climbing wall.

26. Has Battleship as an intramural sport. In Battleship, teams are in canoes in the on campus pool, and they attempt to capsize other teams by dumping buckets of water in their canoes.

27. Has a Global Class Ice-Capable Research Vessel, the R/V Sikuliaq.

28. Has claims to mineral deposits throughout the state.

29. Has a tradition where teams build massive structures out of pallets, and then school officials light those structures on fire. We call it Starvation Gulch. We also have two other traditions, Winter Carnival and SpringFest. Winter Carnival is basically a huge weekend of fun, packed with games, competitions, and a trip to Governer's Cup (see number 14). SpringFest is a weekend where we get Friday off from school, and have all sorts of activities--including a concert--to go to! We love our Nanook Traditions!

30. Has the 40 Below Club, where students pose in bathing suits in front of the temperature sign when it reads -40F.

There are so many more unique things about UAF! I definitely encourage all prospective students to email a Student Ambassador with questions, or just to get to know more about the campus. If possible, come learn more amazing facts on a tour!