Reflections on the year

On October 25, 2016, EMPOWER, the Earth Sciences department, and Syracuse University administrators celebrated the opening of the new collaborative space in Suite 333 of the Heroy Geology Laboratory. This reception was also the formal kickoff of the “Education Model Program for Water-Energy Research” NSF Research Traineeship Program (EMPOWER NRT), marking an exciting new approach to graduate training in the sciences and an opportunity to build meaningful collaborations across Syracuse University’s renowned professional schools.

EMPOWER is a five-year, $3 million NSF-funded program that provides professional and technical training to prepare graduates for a range of career options in the water and energy fields. Led by principal investigator Laura Lautz (Earth sciences professor and department chair), EMPOWER students and faculty comprise a team of over 40 individuals drawn from four university colleges and ten academic departments.

EMPOWER welcomed its first cohort of graduate student trainees in 2016 and has grown to a program of over 25 MS and PhD students from a range of departments. Check out our “People” page to learn about the EMPOWER participants.

According to Lautz, EMPOWER “aims to be responsive to the changing needs of today’s graduate student, who is increasingly interested in careers outside of the traditional academy.” The NRT award provides one-year stipends for up to 46 graduate students across the Earth sciences, engineering, chemistry, and social sciences fields and provides individualized opportunities related to the student’s professional interests. For example, Earth sciences Ph.D. student Robin Glas completed an internship at the USGS New York State Water Science Center; Kristina Gutchess, another Ph.D. student in Earth sciences, developed an extensive portfolio through coursework in science teaching and serving as an adjunct instructor at SUNY Cortland. Other students have used EMPOWER resources to develop their technical skills and enhance their professional network: Sam Caldwell and Emily Baker participated in a thermal infrared imaging certification workshop; and several students attended the American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting in Boston.

Additional programming for EMPOWER this year included the interdisciplinary Water-Energy Seminar, a visiting speaker series, a science communication class through the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication, several professional development workshops, a summer field course, and many networking opportunities. Highlights of this year include:

The center of it all is on the third floor of Heroy. And, as one engineering student said “Having a physical space to meet on a regular basis provides a sense of community. Suite 333 is collaborative space where we network, eat lunch, and prepare for the Water-Energy Seminar.”

This upcoming academic year promises to be an exciting one! Please check back often to learn about our events, activities, and the many accomplishments of our trainees!

Read more about this year in our annual report: EMPOWER Annual Report 2016-17