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November 25th, 2001

Engineer in Antarctica shares ‘fun stuff’ with students

INSTAAR graduate student Hans-Peter Marshall communicated from Antarctica with Casey Middle School students through the Web. Marshall discussed his and others' research projects and fielded questions from the students.

Daily Camera profile:

Name: Hans-Peter Marshall

Age: 25

Home: Boulder, originally from Seattle

Job: Ph.D. student in civil engineering at the University of Colorado. Marshall is also participating in the National Science Foundation K-12 teaching fellowship program: This year, he is spending about 10 hours per week at Casey Middle School, helping out in science and math classes and developing hands-on projects.

Distinction : Marshall left for Antarctica a week ago, to help his former advisor with glaciology research. From the southernmost continent, Marshall will communicate with Casey students through the Web, telling them about his and other research projects, and answering the kids' questions.

What are the students learning?: "I don't think they knew that engineers could do very fun stuff," Marshall said. "I think they picture them with pocket protectors and stuff."

What will you be studying in Antarctica? Marshall will work on the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is crisscrossed with "ice streams," wide sections of ice that move rapidly through surrounding ice. "When you're on the surface, you can't see any difference, and they're just not very understood right now," Marshall said.

The WAIS may be unstable, he said. There is evidence that the thick ice sheet collapsed in geological history; if that ever happened again, Marshall said, sea level would rise substantially — parts of many coastal states would be flooded.

How do you get to Antarctica? Marshall first flies to New Zealand on a commercial carrier, and then to Antarctica on a Navy LC130 Hercules plane with skis, which can land on sea ice.

How did you get interested in science and math?" "Well, my dad's a mathematician," Marshall said. "I guess I was fairly good (at the subjects) and interested in explaining the world around me. ... and I'm a very avid outdoor person."

Have you had important mentors? Marshall mentioned two glaciologists at the University of Washington, Ed Waddington and Howard Conway. "They just showed me how to apply my math and science background to the outdoors I loved so much," Marshall said.

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