TOCC offers science-related summer internships

Feb 21st, 2013 | By | Category: 24-3: The Science of Place, Tribal College News
By Martha Lee
TOCC STUDENTS. The Weather and Climate Internship included a field trip to theNational Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. Here thegroup is shown at Table Mesa on the NCAR grounds, with the Flat Iron Mountains inthe background. From left: Duran Andrews, intern and TOCC student; Hilario Pio-Martinez, intern and TOCC student; Sara Francisco, intern and TOCC alumna;Matthew Saraficio, TOCC student and intern; Casey Kahn-Thornbrugh, weather andclimate adjunct instructor at TOCC. Special thanks to Carmella Kahn-Thornbrugh fortaking photographs and assisting during the internship.

TOCC STUDENTS. The Weather and Climate Internship included a field trip to theNational Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. Here thegroup is shown at Table Mesa on the NCAR grounds, with the Flat Iron Mountains inthe background. From left: Duran Andrews, intern and TOCC student; Hilario Pio-Martinez, intern and TOCC student; Sara Francisco, intern and TOCC alumna;Matthew Saraficio, TOCC student and intern; Casey Kahn-Thornbrugh, weather andclimate adjunct instructor at TOCC. Special thanks to Carmella Kahn-Thornbrugh fortaking photographs and assisting during the internship.

Tohono O’odham Community College (TOCC, Sells, AZ) science faculty make it a priority to engage students in internship opportunities. Dr. Teresa Newberry, a science instructor and American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) faculty advisor, explained that promoting internships and preparing students for these experiences is one of the key functions of AISES. Several TOCC students who are AISES members held science-related internships in 2011 and 2012.

Last summer, four students participated in research organized through a NASA-funded cooperative agreement facilitated by Kiksapa Consulting of North Dakota. The students were advised by agriculture and natural resources instructor, Dr. Mohamud Farah. After training in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), the students conducted research in sustainable housing, emergency response systems related to their communities, and traditional food and medicinal plants in arid environments. Marcus Lee and Joeagle Flores held internships researching local climate change issues, while Tina Vavages and Drew Harris helped the Tohono O’odham Nation Planning Department integrate a GIS system to provide emergency responders with more locational information. Lee, Flores, and Farah spent three weeks at Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU, Lawrence, KS) as part of the NASA/Kiksapa Research Experience for Undergraduates.

In spring and summer 2012, four other TOCC students conducted weather and climate internships as part of TOCC’s partnership with the University of Arizona NASA Space Grant Consortium. Hilario (Eli) Pio- Martinez researched “Developing Solar Energy on the Tohono O’odham Nation.” Sara Francisco studied the North American monsoon system for her research on “Contributions of Gulf Surges to Thunderstorms and Rainfall over Tohono O’odham Lands.” Matthew Saraficio asked, “How Can the Tohono O’odham Understand the Creation of Lightning?” Duran Andrews focused his research on the “Traditional Uses of Water in Ak-Chin Farming,” an agricultural method in which rainfall during the monsoon is channeled to crops planted at the mouth of a wash or arroyo. Casey Kahn-Thornbrugh, M.A., adjunct instructor of weather and climate at TOCC, advised the project.

Another student, Victoria Chavez, joined Eli Pio-Martinez for a five-week summer Research Experience for Undergraduates at Arizona State University. The two built solar cells and came to understand both the scientific process of turning light into energy, as well as the many business and financial issues related to solar energy.

The students agreed that these internships strengthened their interest in science, agriculture, and natural resources, and they thanked TOCC, the universities involved, NASA, Kiksapa, and their advisors for the experience.

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