2010-2011 Winners of Grundy Haven Paper Competition

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                  pictured from left to right: Thomas Rauch, Daniel Mills, Lindsay Kromel, Patrick Ritsko,

                        Robert Lydick, and Daniel Pollak

The six winners of the 2010-2011 Grundy Haven paper competition wrote on study breaks, weekends, late at night, and even while procrastinating completing other coursework. They wrote about habitable exoplanets, Chinese coal mine safety, lighting, Marcellus Shale, pool use forecasting, and ice-snow surface albedo feedback.  Some adapted a paper they had written in an academic setting, while others began from scratch. All sought to take the technical aspects of their research and knowledge and explain it to a lay audience. The aim of the Grundy Haven competition is to foster excellence in communicating science to the general public by students in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

Six students achieved this excellence (three first prize winners and three honorable mentions). Congratulations to Daniel Mills (geobiology), Thomas Rauch (mining engineering and energy, business & finance), and Patrick Ritsco (meteorology) for their first place entries; and  Lindsay Kromel (environmental systems engineering), Robert Lydick (meteorology), and Daniel Pollack (meteorology) for their honorable mention entries.

Daniel Mills won first place for his paper, Charting the Islands of the Cosmic Ocean. “Somewhere in the universe, we have good reason to believe, are planets like our own,” he writes. His intrigue with the discoveries of NASA’s Kepler Mission and his appreciation for scientists, such as Carl Sagan, was the reason he entered the paper competition. “Getting people to care about science is just as important as getting people to know about science,” according to Daniel. “Science as it’s really practiced, is an emotional and creative enterprise–not just a body of dry facts learned by rote.” He plans on being a research scientist who communicates his findings to a lay audience because he believes in public outreach.

Thomas Rauch also won first place for his paper, China’s Conundrum: Coal Mine Safety. In the spring of 2010 he traveled to China and, as he described it, was a “young man in search of world citizenship.” His observations of the Chinese mining industry led him to compare three types of mines in China and why their fatality rates differed. He wrote this paper because he wanted to reflect on his time in Asia and relate it to his studies. “This competition is relevant to my career. I’ll be writing reports and investigating issues, particularly using statistics to evaluate situations in engineering and business.”

Patrick Ritsko got interested in the science behind the switch from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent light (CFL) and light-emitting diodes (LEDS) during his freshman LEAP experience. He adapted a paper he wrote and won a first place for, Flipping the On-Switch to Energy Efficient Lighting. Part of his motivation for writing was also to honor his father’s efforts toward his education. Patrick said of his dad, “He works hard to fund my education. This honor is something I’d like to give back to him in appreciation for all his efforts to see me succeed in life.”

Lindsay Kromel was one of three honorable mention winners for her paper, Marcellus Shale Flowback Water: It’s Not Just About Gas. She worked with her faculty sponsor, Dr. Kamini Singha, who helped put her in touch with experts in the field. For example, she interviewed Dave Yoxtheimer, an expert hydrologist for the Marcellus Shale, and she gained a much better understanding of the issues involved in hydraulic fracturing. “Overall this experience has taught me to pursue my curiosity,” she said. “I feel like I’m now able to communicate in a way that invites multiple audiences, which is necessary to make people care about my work as a scientist.”

Rob Lydick’s inspiration for his honorable mention winning entry, Forecasters Make a Spash, came from his summer job; he worked with Penn State and PPG Industries to supply pool use forecasting to Leslie’s Poolmart Inc. In his paper, he explains the connection between the meteorological data of forecasting and the practical business of pool use. He recommends more students participate in the competition because it helped him learn “how to shorten sentences, be concise, remain focused on the topic, and write in a style for a popular magazine, which is a very useful skill!”

Daniel Pollak entered the competition because he hopes to communicate the science of climate change in his future career. In his paper, Treading on Thin Ice, he explains the significance of ice-snow surface albedo feedback. When asked what advice he would give future students who are considering entering the contest, he said, “Write an entry! As future scientists, it’s critical that we’re able to communicate what we do, otherwise our work doesn’t have much relevance, does it?”

The William Grundy Haven Awards were established in 1950 in memory of a Penn State geology student who was killed in action during World War II. The Earth and Mineral Science College (EMS) is grateful for these funds, and proud to recognize the achievements of these fine communicators. If you’re an undergraduate in EMS, and in your second-year or higher of attendance by February 15, 2012, you are eligible to enter. 

Read this story on PSU Live.

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