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Deep freeze

Thayer student to study ice cores

In honor of the upcoming International Polar Year, the Geographical Society of Philadelphia recently announced the award of a $1,000 grant to Rachel Obbard, a graduate student at Thayer School of Engineering who will complete her Ph.D. in engineering in June. Obbard's area of specialization is the microstructural properties of ice.

Rachel Obbard
Thayer School graduate student Rachel Obbard, pictured in the cold room at the National Ice Core Lab in Denver, Co. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Obbard)

"This grant will enable me to travel to meet colleagues with whom I can prepare a proposal for work on International Polar Year objectives for the National Science Foundation," says Obbard. "I hope to be part of a collaborative effort to collect and analyze snow and ice from polar regions to contribute to our understanding of processes related to climate change."

Dean of Thayer School Joseph Helble comments, "Obbard is in good company—this award comes from a society that is more than a century old, and one that has presented other awards to explorers such as John Glenn and Sir Edmund Hillary. It is a testament to her skill as an engineering scientist and an example of the creative things Dartmouth engineering students can do when given the freedom to pursue a problem in depth."

International concern over the effects of global warming has led to an expanding research interest in the Arctic and Antarctic. Obbard has been using scanning electron microcopy, confocal Raman spectroscopy, and other advanced characterization techniques to investigate the location of different chemical compounds in ice, in support of ice core interpretation. The search for clues to abrupt climate change drives the need to understand how climactic indicators in ice may move around naturally, so that researchers can distinguish those effects from climate change impacts on the original composition.

The International Polar Year 2007-08 is envisioned as an intense scientific campaign to explore new frontiers in polar science, improve understanding of the critical role of the polar regions in global processes, and educate the public about the polar regions. Over 40 nations will be participating and numerous exhibits, lectures, and conferences will be presented.

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Last Updated: 12/17/08