Radford University students prepare for annual research trip to Alaska

RADFORD, Va. (WDBJ) – Radford University physics professor Dr. Rhett Herman has been taking students on trips to Alaska since 2006.

“It evolved from my research in the Arctic to allowing students to choose their own projects.”

These projects begin in the fall semester, when each student chooses the route they want to follow, based on what they want their research to look like.

“Throughout the fall semester they come up with a research plan, they design a sensor based on your friend and mine, the little Arduino microcontroller. … Then they build, they design, their own project boxes , their sensor boxes. So they finish the builds in January and February, and then we go up to Alaska and deploy them on the ice floe.

Dr. Herman likes being able to give students this hands-on experience, which can also help them advance their careers when they graduate.

“I think the biggest thing we take out of this experience is really the hands-on work. …Ideas on paper, we built them and created them, and now we go out into the field and apply them,” said Sami Reitz.

“One of the interesting parts of this whole experience is kind of the aesthetics and the romantic idea of ​​how science works,” said Sam Williams.

“It’s much harder for an undergraduate to get those research opportunities before trying to apply to those higher-level graduate programs. So it really gives us the opportunity for us STEM majors to really get out there and get the stuff to put on our CVs or resumes,” Jonathon Halferty said.

“One of the most valuable things I’ve learned is that there’s nothing wrong with not practicing. … Just like how to overcome failure, because l ‘Failure in science is not really a failure,’ said Julia Buccola.

“I’m still a high school student, so this really gives me a head start and prepares me more for this future that I want to pursue,” said Julian Miller.

“It’s a really self-selected group of people who want to do something pretty good with their lives. They all have plans and I hope this helps them achieve their plans,” said Dr Herman.

This group of students is also team-oriented. Although each has their own research to do, they encourage each other and are there for each other through it all.

The group departs Friday for Utqiagvik, Alaska, and will arrive there Saturday evening. A few students will be there until March 12, but the majority will do a week’s research before returning to Virginia.

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