Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer in Rhode Island, Part 2

One of the great treasures at the University of Rhode Island, as well as for the state and the nation, is the Graduate School of Oceanography. Not surprisingly, the GSO had a very busy and productive summer. I would like to highlight a couple of its activities.

URI scientists at the GSO have contributed in multiple ways to understanding the impacts of the BP/Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill – from predicting the spread of the oil (Dr. Malcolm Spaulding had a prominent role in this) to assessing strategies for mitigation.

In June, our research ship (the R/V Endeavor) was quickly outfitted in order to make critical measurements of subsurface oil in the Gulf. Dr. Christopher Reddy (URI 1997 Ph.D. in chemical oceanography from GSO) was a key member of the scientific team. Their characterization of a continuous plume of oil that was over 50 miles long, at a depth of greater than 3,000 feet, was published in the August issue of the prestigious journal Science.

Their findings have numerous important implications for understanding the consequences of the massive spill, and also are relevant to understanding the ultimate prospects for degradation of the oil by microorganisms. The results of the research have garnered worldwide coverage; Dr. Reddy and R/V Endeavor have certainly received (and earned) far more than 15 minutes of fame!

This has also been a hectic but enormously productive summer for URI/GSO scientist and explorer Dr. Bob Ballard, who is very familiar with the bright lights. Using the cutting-edge facilities of the Inner Space Center at the GSO, as well as command consoles located around the world, scientists, students, and kids of all ages can participate in ocean exploration – live and in real time. The capabilities are simply amazing! I had the benefit of a demonstration from Bob himself at the recent “Friends of the Graduate School of Oceanography” reception in the Ocean Science and Exploration Center. You can check this out yourself at Note that a lot of URI faculty and graduate students are part of the scientific research and exploration associated with this voyage of the E/V Nautilus (owned and operated by the Ocean Exploration Trust).

As the GSO looks forward to its 50th anniversary, it can look back with a great sense of accomplishment on a stellar record of achievement. Given the talent, dedication, and energy of the URI/GSO faculty, students, and staff, we can readily anticipate an even brighter future.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer in Rhode Island, Part 1

Regrettably, our first full summer in Rhode Island is coming to a close. It will be great to have all our students back at the University of Rhode Island but the summer here has been delightful. It’s also been very busy. A lot of research, scholarship, and training gets done at URI over the summer – by faculty, research staff, graduate students, undergraduates, and even high school students who work in the facilities and labs. Last week I attended a terrific small poster session, organized by Professor Angela Slitt of the College of Pharmacy, to highlight the research done by students over the summer. Their work was first rate, and the enthusiasm of the students was infectious. And the results of the students’ research are relevant to multiple issues in human health. Dr. Slitt and her students are making a difference.

I also had an opportunity to visit the teams of URI faculty and Rhode Island teachers working on innovative ways to make lasting improvements in the teaching and learning of science in our middle schools and high schools. This program, known as the Rhode Island Technology Enhanced Science (“RITES”) Program is a partnership between URI, RIC, Johnston Public Schools, and RIDE, with the participation of school districts and teachers across the state. Supported by a major grant from the National Science Foundation, the goal is to impact all of the 686 middle and high school science teachers and their over 83,000 students with excellent science teaching materials and practices in order to dramatically improve the quality of science teaching and learning. Judging by the commitment and dedication of the teachers, faculty, and staff I met, they will succeed.

The University of Rhode Island hosts a wide variety of summer events – ranging from the superb Kingston Chamber Music Series, the Summer Writing Conference, and the Balloon Fest. One of unique ones for me was Leapfest, one of the many ways that URI partners with our Armed Services. You can get a good sense of this event from the video on our homepage, which you can also watch here:

These are only a few examples of what goes on at the University of Rhode Island in the summer. I will be writing about several more over the next week or two as we prepare for the start of the fall semester. In the meantime, here are a few more photos from one of my personal highlights for the summer – climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.