Last week was week 6, and progress has been slow and steady. I’m still working on essentially the same tasks that I have been since week 4, which is looking directly at waveform data from land seismometers for lava bomb signals. Since I have frequent contact with both Dr. Shen and Puja (at least weekly), I am learning a lot about the lava bombs as a type of sudden event, and am trying my best to balance my time between searching for lava bombs as the primary task in my IRIS internship, and other things that are also happening this summer.
The challenges I’m facing right now might be a little different from the challenges I was facing, say, in weeks 1 and 2 of the internship. The biggest hurdle for me to clear is deadline anxiety, especially as conferences are coming up and abstract submission deadlines are approaching. Still, this is a specific concern and speaks to, as I’ve discussed before, my anxiety about my productivity and making good progress.
I think that a skill that I underestimated was being able to break tasks down into smaller chunks, which ties into giving myself direction and seeking guidance from others. Of course, general competency helps with the project, in the sense that developing tools to use for tasks is useful and such, but I don’t think I could have gotten nearly as far as I am now without being able to step back, take some time, and think about how I want to go about doing my work before actually doing it. This way, when I do dive in, I have a clear direction and I am focused.
Time management has been a big deal for me this summer, because I wanted to define clear work-life boundaries for myself as I tackled my research, both at my home university and at URI virtually. So far, it’s been going quite well in terms of occupying my workspace and having very clear boundaries, at least in time spent working. However, I am almost always in that work mode mentally, and I’m not sure it’s motivated purely by positive emotions relating to the research. Again, going back to that productivity anxiety!
We’re basically at the halfway point of the internship. I have six more weeks to go, and I feel really good about that. I think I’m finally moving on from the “what’s going on” phase to the “let’s get some results” phase of the project, which is both exciting and daunting. I sometimes wonder if I’m looking for something that isn’t there, or if I missed something along the way and have to backtrack, etc.
The figure shown below is a spectrogram taken from one of the closest land seismometers to the Kilauea south flank (southwest ocean entry), in a four minute timeframe centered around a lava bomb origin time. Taking into account the time it takes for waves to propagate from the lava bomb to the seismometer, this spectrogram is promising because it shows several broadband signals, one of which is a few seconds after the center of the time window (which is the lava bomb’s origin time); whether or not this is actually the signal of the referenced lava bomb will take more analysis to determine. There are still imperfections in how I am processing and analyzing my data, and I go more into detail on the Google Site: https://sites.google.com/ucsd.edu/iris-internship/home?authuser=1
The paper that I’m drawing the most information (and even some data) from is a paper that my mentor, Dr. Shen, co-authored and published very recently just earlier this year, titled “An OBS Array to Investigate Offshore Seismicity during the 2018 Kilauea Eruption.” The paper covers the 2018 Kilauea eruption as a premise for deploying a dozen ocean-bottom seismometers (OBS) off the southeast shore of the big island of Hawai’i, some preliminary findings from the OBS data, and the high number of events, both seismic and acoustic, that have been recorded by the OBS network. The last point indicates there is data to observe lava-water interactions, which directly includes my internship project! As such, this paper essentially provides the complete foundation for a lot of Dr. Shen’s current work, his graduate student’s work, and by extension, my work. What we’re doing now is directly based off of the work done to produce this paper.
This entry is a bit late, as I’m actually starting week 5 today! I plan to post blog entries at the end of every week from now on.
I think week 4 was my most anxious so far. I was trying my best to push through certain tasks in my work, but the speed at which I was making progress was still quite slow compared to what I wanted and expected from myself, even though I felt like I was becoming more efficient as I got into a rhythm. After some reflection, I’ve determined a few reasons why my expectations and my actual progress were misaligned.
Why my progress didn’t meet my expectations
Overall, the week got more nerve-wracking as I progressed, but by Friday afternoon, after I wrapped up all my meetings for the week and talked to who I needed to talk to, I felt a bit more relaxed and reassured that I was, in fact, making “enough” progress. This really speaks to a larger insecurity that I’m sure many of my peers can relate to - that I want to excel/don’t want to fail/however one wants to phrase it, so I think I need to continue openly communicating with the people around me and hopefully reframe my expectations such that they are more realistic and rewarding rather than punishing. I look forward to week 5!
Oops, I almost forgot, I’m maintaining a Google Site to keep track of my progress in more detail: https://sites.google.com/ucsd.edu/iris-internship/home?authuser=1
We’re starting week 3 off strong! Monday (yesterday) was my university’s observation of Juneteenth, so I had a three-day weekend to rest before getting back at it today. I feel like I’m becoming more time-efficient every day; I’m putting a lot of effort into planning out my tasks, which surprisingly helps a lot with discussing my work with colleagues, not to mention actually getting the tasks done on time.
I think that my biggest challenge at this point is just knowing what to do for my tasks. I find myself unable to make meaningful, timely progress unless I’ve broken down a task into specific, bite-sized details that I can tackle one at a time over the course of the day. Otherwise, I just sit there staring at the task until I either switch to working on something else or I make some small, almost insignificant step. I think that, while breaking things down into digestible chunks is a good practice, I’ll also have to find ways to “forget” other tasks to help myself focus and finish the one at hand before moving onto the next one.
Something I was really hoping to be able to do was to get to know other people in the natural sciences. While I haven’t been able to interact as much as I’d like with my fellow IRIS interns (realistically, what can I do in a virtual-only setting?), I’ve been so fortunate to get to work on campus at IGPP/SIO where I have met another cohort of undergraduate summer interns, who are also working on geophysics-related projects. I have also met graduate students and faculty who are interested in my work, some of whom I had interacted previously as a student in their virtual classes during the past academic year.
Here is a map I built using the Cartopy package in Python. As I progress, I plan to add more and more to this map, but for now it just lists the locations of the land stations I’m working with. I’ll add the ocean-bottom-seismometer network after I finish analyzing the land data.
My project is located on the east/southeast flank of the Big Island, and listed are some of the easternmost stations in the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HV) network. Kilauea’s 2018 eruption saw large lava flows to the east, eventually reaching the ocean along the southeast edge of the island. These ocean entries, where lava benches form and sometimes collapse (hence underwater landslides), are the focus of my project.
I am almost done with week 2. It’s crazy to think that some of my fellow interns are already about halfway through their internships…
Overall, things are going great; I’m settling into a daily work schedule where I am making slow and steady progress. It helps a lot that my mentor at my university has set me up with a workspace in the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP) complex at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where I am meeting another cohort of summer research fellows in person, as well as graduate students and faculty who are more than happy to discuss the ins and outs of seismology with me. Between my IRIS project and continued in-house research at UCSD, I have my work cut out for me the rest of this summer, but I am feeling more confident each day that I will be able to push through. The more time I spend on my work, the more familiar I am with my tools and the quicker I can finish my tasks. That isn’t to say I’m the most efficient, just that I’m improving!
The beach isn’t too distracting, I don’t think…
Elevator pitch assignment: a reflection
One of the tasks we were given to do this week was to prepare a quick, minute(ish)-long dialogue to explain and pitch our research. I thought this was a very useful assignment to be given, as it taught me several things on different levels. On the surface, it helped me prep for presenting my work on my lava bombs/submarine landslides project to any non-academic/unfamiliar audience, and here is where the AGU comes to mind. However, on a deeper level, it gave me practice in summarizing specific scientific topics so that they are digestible to a wider audience, which is a very useful applicable skill to have not just as a scientist or researcher, but as someone engaged in something that just isn’t widely known.
Overall, it was quite difficult for me to draft my elevator speech. Part of it was because I’m just now transitioning out of the settling in phase, but it was mostly because I’ve never had to present my work formally before to people outside of my immediate circles. Even then, if I had to present for a class, the topics were class related rather than research-related, so drafting a minute-long pitch was a new experience for me. I can’t say it was enjoyable at first, but after I finished my draft, I figured it’s a lot simpler, faster, and easier to revise what I had than to rebuild it from scratch; I’m glad that I’ve taken that first step, actually composing the pitch, as I believe the first step will probably turn out to be the hardest. As AGU approaches, I will revise and refine the speech.
Hi all, my name's Cameron Wang and I'll be working on identifying signals of specific types of sudden events in seismic and acoustic data, specifically lava bombs and submarine landslides during the 2018 Kilauea eruption in Hawai’i using various land and ocean-bottom seismometer datasets.
What do I want to accomplish?
I want to accomplish several things with my placement. Starting from the most specific to the most broad, I want to:
Since I first began engaging with research in seismology just this past academic year, I found I was finally able to put what I’ve learned in my studies to good use. Working on this project under Dr. Shen’s tutelage at URI will help me learn more about not only seismology, but also oceanography, volcanology, and how they all connect.
My experience so far in the natural sciences has been positive and inclusive, as has my limited time spent with the IRIS cohort. I look forward to getting to know my fellow interns as we progress through the summer!
This summer internship will be a great opportunity to see if this research environment is right for me, and if I would possibly like to look into graduate programs in the future as well. As I just finished my major during my third year of undergrad, now is as good a time as any to start thinking seriously about what I want to do in the future.
I can start by discussing with my mentor how the Graduate School of Oceanography at URI operates, as well as looking into other institutes that host graduate programs.
I am starting my project off by working with land-based seismometers on the island of Hawai’i in the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Network (HVO Network), managed by the USGS with data being accessible through IRIS’ Data Management Center. The HVO data will be the first dataset I access, so that we may begin our investigation with consistent land seismometer data to compare against as a baseline.
We will then follow up with in-house data from a recently deployed network of ocean-bottom seismometers to approach the question of identifying specific event signals in seismic and acoustic data, which leads to interesting implications in recording submarine landslides, and more broadly, seismographic data analysis.
My skill in recognizing and understanding research problems: a reflection
This skill, boiled down to understanding a problem, is so widely applicable to almost any endeavor. For example – writing this blog post itself was an exercise in understanding my project so I could adequately summarize it. In the context of this internship, understanding my research thesis is the key to starting and finishing my project. I think that it will be important for me to not only develop but also maintain my understanding of what my research is trying to answer/accomplish as I continue forward.
As for specifics such as formulating research questions, contributing to an existing framework of knowledge, and figuring out my next step, I will also have my mentor to rely on for guidance and assistance where needed.
To be able to fully recognize and completely understand a research problem would, by traditional metrics, make me an expert in the field; I think it means being a dedicated and passionate researcher. For me, there’s no substitute for consistent time spent on the project, though using my time efficiently will also be an area I plan to improve on. All in all, I’ll have to settle in first and see how things go for a little while before I can identify what exactly the bottlenecks are in my work.
Take care and be safe!