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Dartmouth awarded NSF grant for new polar sciences, engineering grad program

The Dickey Center for International Understanding, through its Institute for Arctic Studies, has been awarded nearly $3 million by the National Science Foundation through its Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program.

The five-year grant supports the development of an interdisciplinary doctoral program in the polar sciences and engineering with a focus on rapid environmental change. "This grant will provide Dartmouth faculty and students so many exciting opportunities. It will support the development of new interdisciplinary curriculum addressing one of the most critical scientific challenges to face the coming generations," said Dean of the Faculty, Carol Folt. "The partners in this program have created a tremendous tool for educating and nurturing the next generation of polar and climate change researchers."

What sets this grant apart is its focus not just on polar sciences, but on the political and human aspects of climate change as well. "This grant will allow us to train a desperately-needed cohort of climate change scientists," said Ross Virginia, Professor of Environmental Studies, Director of the Institute of Arctic Studies and principal investigator of the IGERT project. His co-investigators include Ian Baker of Thayer School of Engineering, Xiahong Feng in Earth Sciences, Darren Ranco in Native Amercian and Environmental Studies Programs, and Mary Albert of the Thayer School of Engineering and the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL).

The Dickey Center will serve as the umbrella organization for the program, which will involve not only faculty sponsors from multiple Dartmouth departments and professional schools, but will also include partnerships with scientists from CRREL, and faculty and policy experts from the University of Greenland and the Inuit Circumpolar Council-Greenland. Kenneth Yalowitz, Director of the Dickey Center, explained that the Center is in a unique position to put the IGERT grant to good use. "We at the Dickey Center are very proud of this achievement and of Ross Virginia and the Institute of Arctic Studies," said Yalowitz. "Dickey's primary purpose is to promote international understanding and involvement in major international issues of the day across the Dartmouth community. The focus of the IGERT grant on climate change and human policy implications involves many different faculty and disciplines at Dartmouth and we are delighted that under Dickey's aegis, this will go forward."

Albert, a CRREL senior research engineer, added, "We at CRREL are ecstatic about our success in the IGERT partnership with Dartmouth; this will open new doors for increased graduate student involvement in climate change research that is important for our nation and the world."

The IGERT program will train doctoral students to have an interdisciplinary view of polar systems and to understand the social and ethical implications of their research. The program will draw from the pool of applicants to Dartmouth's doctoral programs in the sciences and engineering and those selected for the program will receive a stipend in the form of an IGERT Fellowship as well as be involved in new interdisciplinary training on climate change and the cold regions, and international research opportunities in Greenland and other polar locations, including Antarctica.

In addition to the curricular requirements for their science graduate work, students in the new program will have a core curriculum including the courses, "Introduction to Polar Systems" and "Sustainability Science, Policy and Ethics." They will be trained to frame research questions in ways relevant to Arctic residents and policy by using tools and perspectives from both western science and traditional ecological knowledge. They will also attend a field seminar in Greenland in terrestrial ecosystem or cryosphere dynamics, followed by instruction from Greenlandic academic and policy experts in the human dimensions of Arctic change.

"Thanks to the IGERT award, Dartmouth and the Dickey Center's Institute for Arctic Studies will be able to strengthen its long-term commitment to polar studies and to faculty and student research, teaching, and the understanding of issues facing high latitude regions," said Dartmouth Provost Barry Scherr. "With the IGERT, Dartmouth, in partnership with CRREL, will create a curriculum that will train the next generation of scientists and engineers in such a way that they come to understand both the environmental change that is occurring in the polar regions as well as the societal effects of those developments."

IGERT is an NSF-wide program intended to meet the challenges of educating U.S. Ph.D. scientists and engineers with the interdisciplinary background, deep knowledge in a chosen discipline, and the technical, professional, and personal skills needed for the career demands of the future. The program is intended to catalyze a cultural change in graduate education by establishing innovative new models for graduate education and training in a fertile environment for collaborative research that transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries.


Contact: Genevieve Haas
Dartmouth College

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