Graduate Student of the Month

Shannon Valley - October, 2016
Shannon Valley

Shannon Valley is a 3rd year PhD student in EAS. Her line of research is paleoclimate/paleoceanography which involves reconstructing past ocean circulation using geochemical proxies in order to understand the ocean’s role in abrupt climate change. Recently she presented the poster "Timing of Deglacial AMOC Variability from a High-resolution Seawater Cadmium Reconstruction" at the International Conference on Paleoceanography.

Shannon received a BA in Political Science and International Studies (2007) from Northwestern University and an MS in EAS awarded Summer 2016 under the advisement of Dr. Jean Lynch-Stieglitz. She has worked for five years in NASA’s Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs in Washington, DC and was awarded the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal in 2014 for communicating NASA science (including Earth science) on Capitol Hill. During her time in DC, she also spent six months working in the West Wing, for the Domestic Policy Council in the Executive Office of the President. In 2015 Shannon was awarded the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. She is currently the 2016-2017 University Relations Chair for Georgia Tech’s Black Graduate Student Association.

Her interests lie at the intersections of science and society. She spends a lot of time thinking about how scientific understanding of Earth systems can support those who are least equipped to handle changes to our climate and how our political and economic systems may help or hinder those efforts. In her spare time, Shannon enjoys traveling, yoga, hiking, and plane spotting.

Zachary Meeks - September, 2016
Zachary Meeks

Zachary Meeks is a 2nd year Ph.D. student researching Space Plasma Physics, under the direction of Dr. Sven Simon. His undergraduate degree is a B.S. in Physics (Astrophysics) from Georgia Tech. While in undergrad he published “Is J Enough? Comparison of Gravitational Waves Emitted Along the Total Angular Momentum Direction with Other Preferred Orientations” (2012) and “Efficient Asymptotic Frame Selection for Binary Black Hole Spacetimes using Asymptotic Radiation” (2011). As a graduate student he has published “A Comprehensive Analysis of Ion Cyclotron Waves in the Equatorial Magnetosphere of Saturn” (2016).

Zach is the Planetary Science Rep for GEAS (the graduate student organization for the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences) and in his spare time he enjoys playing baseball, dealing blackjack, scuba diving with sharks, and woodworking.

Sebastian Ortega - April, 2016
Sebastian Ortega

Sebastian Ortega started his graduate degree in Fall 2011. His line of research is focuses on Tropical Meteorology with Dr. Peter Webster. Specifically, he studies the South Asia Monsoon, and is interested both in its intra-seasonal and intra-annual variability. Within the research group, they study closely what happens in the upper troposphere as well as in the lower troposphere, and try to understand how both might interact. They have recently submitted a paper to the Journal of Climate, where they show that quasi-biweekly oscillation over the monsoon regions occur simultaneously with quasi-biweekly oscillations of the monsoon anticyclone.

Sebastian is a Civil Engineer from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Medellin. He says that his Colombian university also has a very good Geophysics School, focusing mostly in Hydrology, this is where he became interested in Earth Sciences. In his senior year of undergrad, he worked in Physical Limnology and studied how rivers can affect the thermal stratification of reservoirs. He is also very interested in Physics and Dynamical systems. Sebastian did his Ph.D. minor in Physics and always tries to incorporate what he’s learned here into research. In his spare time, Sebastian enjoys playing guitar, rock climbing, and reading.

Jia He - March, 2016
Jia He

Jia He is a 5th year Ph.D. candidate who received her B.S. in Atmospheric Sciences from Nanjing University in Nanjing, China. She is currently being advised by Dr. Robert Black with whom she co-published an article with entitled "Characterizing Arctic Spring Onset" which can be found in the Journal of Climate (2015). She has been working on identifying and characterizing rapid spring onset events and associated atmospheric dynamical processes in the Arctic. In her spare time, Jia enjoys working out at the gym and reading fiction novels.

Emily Christ - February, 2016
Emily Christ

Emily Christ is a 5th year graduate student whose line of research entails applyingweather forecast data to problems in agriculture. She earned herBachelor and Master of Science in Engineering, both from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Emily worked as an environmental engineering consultant prior to relocating to Atlanta with her husband, Joey. Currently she is a licensed Professional Engineer in both Alabama and Georgia.

Emily has one publication in the Journal of Cotton Science which was released in November 2015 titled ‘Using Precipitation Forecasts to Irrigate Cotton’.  It explores the possibility of using weather forecasts as irrigation planning aids. Her research has been supported by Cotton, Inc. and she’s had the privilege to work with faculty and staff at the University of Georgia, UGA’s Stripling Irrigation Research Park, North Carolina State University, Auburn University, the University of Arkansas, and Mississippi State University while pursuing her degree.

She recently submitted a second paper to the Agronomy Journal that uses cotton canopy temperature forecasts to predict heat stress in cotton. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteering at the Peachtree City Treasures retail store for Wellspring Living.  Wellspring Living helps domestic sex trafficking victims and the ‘at risk’ develop the courage to move forward and the confidence to succeed.  Profits from the retail stores help support the ministry. Emily also enjoys serving at Peachtree City First Baptist Church, working out at Pure Barre and gardening.

James Hite - January, 2016
James Hite

James Hite is a 5th year graduate student whose line of research includes aerosols, clouds, and climate. His thesis will focus on thermodynamics of secondary organic aerosol. James received a B.S. in EAS in 2011 and an M.S. in EAS in 2012,both under the direction of Dr. Thanos Nenes. Some of his accomplishments include Air & Waste Management Association’s Southern Section Scholarship (August 2015), NASA Earth and Space Science Fellowship (May 2015), National Instruments Certified LabVIEW Associate Developer (June 2013), Glen Cass Award (April 2013), and Student Poster Competition Winner at the American Association for Aerosol Research 31st Annual Conference (October 2012).

His future projects include field deployment this spring to Korea with aerosol research group from NASA Langley: KORUS-AQ. He is currently working on publications based on previous field deployment with NASA group, collaborative smog chamber experiments at Caltech, and ongoing development of a measurement & modeling technique for estimating organic aerosol volatility.

James says that other interests of his include arguing pointlessly about things like current events, politics, and philosophy. Anything that tends to evoke a visceral response in folks, for instance, cats are better than dogs. He is both the graduate student senator for the EAS department and the Secretary of Graduate SGA. James enjoys listening to podcasts or music during work. His current music playlist includes both Fleshgod Apocalypse and The J. Gelis Band. During his spare time, he chooses video games as his entertainment of choice.

Lucas Luizzo - December, 2015
Lucas Luizzo

Lucas Liuzzo is a 2nd year PhD student studying space physics, more specifically moon-magnetosphere interactions, under the advisement of Dr. Sven Simon. He graduated with a Bachelor's of Science and Engineering from the University of Michigan in 2014. While there, he studied thermosphere-ionosphere coupling in the Earth's upper atmosphere. Currently, he models the interaction between Callisto (a Galilean moon of Jupiter) and the Jovian magnetosphere.

Lucas has a peer-reviewed article in JGR - Space Physics that he published as an undergraduate student at Michigan. Additionally, a paper in JGR - Space Physics was just accepted to be published and should be available shortly. This most recent manuscript is a culmination of the work he’s done so far while in EAS since he arrived last year. It focuses on quantifying the effect that Callisto's atmosphere has on the plasma signatures around the moon, something that has never been done before! For this research, he received 1st prize for best presentation at the International School/Symposium for Space Simulations, held this past summer in Prague, Czech Republic.

Lucas is also the chairman of the GEAS (Graduates in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences) committee. GEAS focuses on enhancing graduate student life and fosters professional and social development for graduate students in EAS. In his spare time, he loves to cook, bake various breads, and he enjoys running.

Yohei Takano - November, 2015
Yohei Takano

Yohei Takano is a 4th year graduate student whose line of research involves working with Dr. Takamitsu Ito on understanding large-scale ocean biogeochemical cycles, including dissolved oxygen, nutrients, and carbon cycles. The main focus of his research is to understand how ocean biogeochemical cycles responds to climate variability and long-term climatic change, such as global warming. Currently, Yohei is working on understanding how oxygen minimum zones evolve under the influence of human induced climate change, which could involve both physical and biological response in the ocean.

Before coming to Georgia Tech, Yohei obtained an M.S. in Atmospheric Sciences from Colorado State University. He says that training from the atmospheric science field really helped him on developing interdisciplinary understanding and research approach on coupled processes between climate change/variability and ocean biogeochemical cycles.

During his spare time he enjoys cooking and eating. Yohei says cooking helped him communicate with people from different cultures and he loves to share recipes with his friends. Most recently, Yohei is wrapping up his research for publications and his dissertation.

Lujendra Ojha - October, 2015
Lujendra Ojha

Lujendra (Luju) Ojha is a 3rd year PhD student in Planetary Science with a Volcanology minor. He received his BS in Geo-physics with a Planetary Science minor from the University of Arizona in 2012. With his advisor Dr. James Wray, his main research interest is understanding the evolution of terrestrial planets. He’s passionate about studying present day geological features on planetary bodies across the solar system. Luju has worked on Earth, Mars, Moon, asteroids, comets, and has also classified various meteorites. His greatest accomplishment to date was discovering streams of water on Mars, by understanding the formation mechanism of Recurring Slope Lineae (RSL). 

Mr. Ojha has several peer-reviewed publications and awards which include a Research Excellence Award and Lunar and Planetary Institute Career Award from the National Science Foundation. When he was at the University of Arizona he received an Honorary Presidents Award and placed first in the Physical Science Research Annual Student Showcase.

Most recently Luju has gone to France for a month long NSF-GROW Fellowship.

Pamela Grothe - September, 2015
Pamela Grothe

Pamela Grothe is a 4th year PhD candidate currently researching paleoclimate - reconstructing tropical Pacific climate through the last 6,000 years using geochemistry from fossil corals. She received a B.S. in geology from Mary Washington College, an M.S. in geology from the University of Colorado and was a part of the Sigma Delta Epsilon/Graduate Women in Science Fellowship for the 2014-2015 academic year. Pamela currently has a paper in review in G-cubed titled, "A comparison of rapid-screen 14C and U/Th dates: Implications for paleoclimate reconstruction." 

For her current project, she is reconstructing the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) between 2000 and 6000 years ago from fossil corals from Christmas Island, central tropical Pacific. Future projections of the strength of ENSO, the largest source of year-to-year climate extremes, are highly uncertain. The instrumental record of ENSO activity is too short in time to resolve potential anthropogenic trends in ENSO properties. Coral oxygen isotopes, alternatively, provide monthly-resolved ENSO activity, and extend back 7000 years ago from islands in the central tropical Pacific. Pamela says her initial results suggest a ~60% reduction in ENSO activity between 3000 and 5000 years ago. She goes on to say, “This work is significant as it will allow us to uncover mechanisms behind past ENSO variability and refine simulations of ENSO in climate models.”

In her spare time, Pamela enjoys running, biking, swimming, hiking, camping, kayaking, and SCUBA diving. She also exclaims, “I love my yellow lab rescue dog, Cooper!”