Undergraduate Research Assistant Opportunities in Spring 2022


Undergraduate Research Assistant Opportunities in Spring 2022

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is offering undergraduate research assistant opportunities during the spring semester of 2022. Columbia undergraduates will be able to serve as research assistants on development-related projects. sustainable and environmentally friendly with distinguished professors and researchers at the forefront of this growing field.

While research assistant positions at Columbia are typically awarded to graduate students, this program is more focused on providing undergraduates a unique opportunity to become involved in research at a high level and gain experience. and skills that are valuable for their future academic and professional careers. Successful applicants will work directly with professors on part-time projects.

Spring 2021 positions include:

  1. Mixed reality apps for ice cap science
  2. Calibrate foraminiferous proxies for reconstructions of past climate change
  3. Understanding the environmental and anthropogenic impacts on the restoration of a key ecosystem engineer
  4. What controls the CO2 / SO2 ratio in the volcanic gas of the arc?
  5. Identify empirical links between climate change, food security and migration

To apply:

Complete the available online request HERE before Sunday December 26 at 11:55 p.m. Although you can apply for more than one position, you must submit separate applications for each.

Only full-time Columbia undergraduate students are eligible. Barnard students are not eligible for the undergraduate RA program. Undergraduate research grants are funded at the rate of $ 18 / hour. Decisions will be made shortly after the deadline.

Students selected for a position will be required to participate in the Earth Institute’s Student Research Showcase in Spring 2022.

Contact David Morales-Miranda ([email protected]) with any questions.


1. Mixed reality applications for ice cap science

Department: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Planned tasks: Some planned tasks include: Developing an augmented reality application in Unity and deploying it on multiple platforms. Creation of an intuitive user interface to interact with geospatial data. Create coordinate system transformations that enable the integration of geospatial datasets into Unity. Make changes to the existing application, such as fixing minor bugs, adding scaling features for radar images, adding scripts to move around different components of the scene, among others programming tasks. A research assistant is needed to accomplish these tasks as this project requires a team member with expertise in computer programming and AR development. The research assistant will be responsible for leading the development of this application.

Preferred skills:

  • Experience with Unity, experience preferred using the Mixed Reality Toolkit
  • Exposure to headsets
  • Experience working with geospatial data
  • Knowledge of 3D graphics
  • Exposure to earth sciences in the broad sense
  • Proficiency in one or more of the following: ArcGIS, MATLAB, Python, R

2. Calibration of foraminiferous proxies for reconstructions of the past climate changes

Department: Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Planned tasks: In the spring, the RA will work alongside a GRA and be guided to test and package the laboratory field equipment. The RA will also be offered to better understand paleo-applications, including collecting fossil foraminifers from sediments and assisting in filament welding in the mass spectrometer lab. Fieldwork includes collecting juvenile plankton off Catalina, identifying and measuring individuals under a microscope, preparing and analyzing experimental seawater, maintaining live specimens in culture. If interested and qualified, a SCUBA Certified RA can join a Catalina Research Dive Course in June 2022 and help with manual foraminifera collection during fieldwork. Fieldwork days are fun but long, and PI brings together a team of senior, graduate and undergraduate staff. By getting to know the research team in the spring semester, the RA will be able to return to the field with confidence.

Preferred skills: The AR will work in the micropaleontology, sedimentology and geochemistry laboratories of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, a 30-minute shuttle ride from Columbia University. A first laboratory experience is advantageous but not compulsory. The RA should be trained to work with chemicals, use personal protective equipment diligently, and follow research instructions carefully and precisely. Students will work as part of a team of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, and laboratory collaboration with others is expected.


3. Understand the environmental and anthropogenic impacts on restoration of a key ecosystem engineer

Department: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Planned tasks: The RA will participate in all aspects of the research process, including classification, cleaning, preparation and analysis of samples. Specific project tasks for the RA student will include, but are not limited to: cleaning oyster shell samples, collecting data on shell morphology and density, acquiring data for analyzes of geometric morphometry. Considering the scale of the project, which involves the analysis of several specimens sampled at various locations in the two estuaries, the assistance provided by the RA will be very valuable in collecting a significant amount of data from the different systems of d ‘study. The additional data collected by the RA will therefore increase the predictive power of spatial models and allow a better understanding of oyster reef responses under a wider range of environmental and anthropogenic disturbances.

Preferred skills:

  • The RA must feel comfortable going to the Lamont-Doherty terrestrial observatory to work one or two days a week.
  • University training in environmental / natural / biological sciences is recommended
  • Good communication and interpersonal skills
  • No previous lab experience is required, but the RA should be very well organized and methodical, with attention to detail. Training will be provided in one of the pre-engagement research tasks.
  • Good time management and an ability to work effectively in a team environment are also desirable

4. What controls the CO2 / SO2 ratio in the volcanic gas of the arc?

Department: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Planned tasks: Tasks of the RA laboratory include manual harvesting of olivine crystals, conducting high pressure experiments with a piston-cylinder apparatus, double polishing of recovered samples, and analyzing molten inclusions with infrared spectroscopy. with Fourier transform and the electronic microprobe. The RA will also be involved in the compilation of the existing geochemical data for the San Cristóbal volcano, calculating the gas composition using the obtained molten inclusion data and a Python-based degassing model and comparing the composition. gas modeled with volcanic gas data from the San Cristóbal volcano. The novelty of this project is to obtain high quality CO2-S data from molten inclusions which resorbed CO2 in vapor bubbles by high pressure experiments and to interpret them in the context of CO2 / ratios. SO2 observed from volcanic gas. Therefore, the success of this project largely relies on the detailed laboratory work and data processing mentioned above. The involvement of a patient and enthusiastic trainee to learn about volcanic degassing is essential.

Preferred skills: Knowledge of mineralogy and geochemistry at the introductory level is required to complete this project. The trainee will also be expected to use Excel for data compilation, basic data processing and plotting, and PowerPoint for short presentations. While processing the data, we will be running python codes. Experience with Python / Matlab would be appreciated but not required.


5. Identify the empirical links between climate change, food security and migration

Department: Center for the International Earth Science Information Network

Planned tasks: The RA will complete the literature review on climate change, food security and links to migration. Along with the finalization of the manuscript project, the completion of the project will require further quantification of the patterns identified during the literature review and creation of figures for the manuscript. As such, the RA will be responsible for writing and editing the manuscript, coordinating with co-authors, and writing the Python code. The RA will submit the manuscript for publication to Population and Environment by the end of the spring quarter of 2022. In addition, the RA will communicate the results to members of the Healthy and Sustainable Food Network and the Climate Mobility Network throughout. of the spring semester 2022.

Preferred skills:

  • Excellent written communication skills
  • Knowledge of science policy and literature related to food security, climate change and migration
  • Experience in publishing a scientific manuscript
  • Experience working with multinational organizations or non-profit humanitarian / development organizations
  • Proficient in Python and knowledge of GitHub


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