Just the Bear Facts

To help you get your bearing in Grad School.

Month: April 2015

GradFocus: Stephanie Wong

By Ben Murray

This week, the Graduate School met with Geology PhD student, Stephanie Wong, to talk about her recent research and accomplishments.  Last month, Stephanie became one of four people selected for the Farvolden Award.  This accolade is presented to students whose presentation or poster stood out at the annual NGWA Groundwater Summit.  Interestingly enough, winning the award is nothing new for Stephanie.  She’s won it twice before!  As a recipient of the award, she will receive recognition from sponsoring employers, a $1,000 scholarship, and most importantly: bragging rights.

Stephanie’s journey to Baylor is certainly unique.  A native Canadian, she attended Carlton University in Ottowa where she earned a degree in Environmental Science with a minor in Geology.  Eager to learn more about the subject, she began searching for graduate programs, hoping to find a Christian school where faculty were conducting relevant research.  However, narrowing down the options was no simple task.  So, she did what anyone would do in that situation.  She consulted a higher power, an all-knowing entity that can answer the deepest questions at a moment’s notice.  She got on Google.  Actually, her dad got on Google; and after seeing Baylor’s Geological research, she decided it was the place for her.

Stephanie’s work at Baylor has been primarily focused on the Edwards Aquifer (for those that don’t know, an aquifer is a body of permeable rock that can contain or transmit ground water) which begins in Bell County and follows the I-35 arc all the way to San Antonio.  The origin of her geological research stems from an unexpected topic: salamanders.  According to her, there was a petition several years ago for the government to classify a native species of salamander as endangered, meaning that commercial development in the northern area of the Edwards Aquifer would be impeded. The salamanders are aquatic, which provided an opportunity for water research in the area.  Although she and her colleagues weren’t  biologists, they were able to begin conducting research. This allowed her to learn a great deal about the ground water in the Salado area where a group of springs are vital to the salamanders’ survival.  For her presentation, Wong studied how natural radon can be used as a tool to understand groundwater flow.  They were able to discover the direction of groundwater flow as well as the chemicals and substances present in the aquifer.

Thanks to her work, inhabitants of Salado were able to prove to the government that the salamanders were being properly monitored and also learn more about the water supply upon which the salamanders and human inhabitants are so dependent.  Although, Stephanie will finish her program in the next year, she says there is ample opportunity for future research in the area as well as a variety of directions the project could take.  Upon graduation, Stephanie could see herself working in a state/government agency or a local management entity.  In her time off, Stephanie enjoys exploring Waco’s local shops and restaurants, hanging out with friends, and getting involved with her local church.

The Graduate School Travel Awards Program

 

travel

By Ben Murray

Are you interested in presenting your work at a conference, yet don’t quite have the funds to travel?  As a graduate student at Baylor, you have access to financial help. The Graduate School is happy to support students who are conducting exciting research in their respective fields.  Specifically, two types of financial support are offered: Travel to Professional Meetings and Travel to Support Doctoral Research.  According to Dissertation and Thesis Coordinator, Sandra Harman (who also supervises the travel awards program), Travel to Professional Meetings is the award most frequently used.  Students are eligible for $300 per year.  However, if there is money left after the two trips; multiple trips within the same academic year are possible.  The award for Doctoral Research is slightly different.  In this case, the Graduate School will match funds with the student’s department, up to $300.  Doctoral students are only eligible for one such award during their time at Baylor and the money is specifically intended for dissertation research.

If you’re worried about paperwork, don’t be.  The process is actually relatively simple.  First, a student must present proof that they are a part of the conference—a program showing the student as a speaker or a letter of acceptance from someone in charge of the conference will suffice. Next, simply fill out the application, provide a supporting note from a resident faculty member, and you’re good to go!  Naturally, students must be currently enrolled in at least one credit hour at Baylor to earn an award.  If the meeting is during summertime, the student must show that they were enrolled in the Spring semester or plan to be enrolled in the Fall.

The Graduate School asks that all students submit the application 30 days before the conference in order to obtain the money before the travel date.  However, they are understanding.  Sometimes students won’t know if they will be able to attend a conference that early.  If that’s the case, the Graduate School can work with you to make sure you’re covered.

These awards have helped a multitude of students over the years.  Last year, the Graduate School funded 426 Travel to Professional Meeting Awards and they will likely surpass that number this year.  Because of these awards, students are given the opportunity to present their research and to network in their fields.  The Graduate School Travel Awards Program has helped students travel to Europe, South America, and Canada, along with locations throughout the U.S.

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