URI doctoral students win awards for presentations at oceanography conference

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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – May 21, 2012 – Two doctoral students at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography were recognized last month with awards for their research presentations at the 2012 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Salt Lake City.

Elizabeth Harvey of Yarmouth, Maine, and Nobuhiro Suzuki of Japan were honored for “displaying notable scientific innovation and significant insight through a clear and concise presentation.” The meeting was sponsored by The Oceanography Society, the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography, and the American Geophysical Union.

“I am particularly pleased with these awards because they highlight not only the high-level research our students are conducting, but also their ability to effectively communicate their results,” said David Smith, associate dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography. “We work on helping our students develop these critical skills through our student seminar series, and it is very gratifying to see them stand out at this important meeting that attracts thousands of scientists from around the world.”

Harvey’s presentation focused on her research into the predator-prey relationships between zooplankton and phytoplankton, tiny marine organisms that are the base of the marine food chain.

“In my lab, I study the individual movement behaviors of phytoplankton and their predators,” Harvey said. “My presentation was about how, when these two organisms interact, their movement behavior changes and how that may have an impact on the abundance of phytoplankton.”

Suzuki creates computer simulations of hurricane strength winds over the ocean.

“Hurricane intensities are strongly influenced by the turbulence that is right at the air-sea interface,” he said. “I model the ocean surface, compute the air flow, and analyze the turbulence.”

The students, both of whom expect to complete their degree requirements by the end of the summer and are looking for postdoctoral research opportunities, said they were honored to have been recognized for their presentations.

“It’s actually a big honor just to be chosen to give an oral presentation,” noted Harvey. “Often the slots in these big conferences are sought-after and given to high profile researchers.

“But it can also be intimidating because you’re speaking to experts in your field,” she added. “You just have to remember that you’re the expert on your own research, so that helps overcome any worries.”

Harvey hopes to eventually have a career as a college professor at a research institution like URI, while Suzuki is open to a wide variety of career options, including working in the corporate world, as a college professor, or at a government research lab.