Homeland Security grant supports 16 student researchers

By Kesha Williams

Yuan's Homeland Security researchers

 

Six ECSU students assisted Dr. Jinchun Yuan, a professor in ECSU’s Natural Sciences Department, with his presentation at a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) workshop in Washington D.C. The students included: Ryan Onley, Ashley Larson, Shevon Valenski, Joel Gonzalez-Santiago, Dwayne Ponton, and Shavon Smith.

They traveled to the nation’s capital for a workshop that drew 15 minority serving institutions which showcased research projects, accomplishments, and curricula that have been developed through the support of the DHS Science and Technology Office of University Programs.

In 2012, Dr. Yuan received a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a series of remote sensing projects. The grant also supported scholarships that benefited several ECSU students majoring in the natural sciences. The grant allows students to complete a minor in GIS Remote Sensing.  In exchange for their satisfactory participation in research projects, the students receive tuition (in the form of a scholarship and a monthly stipend) to assist them with the cost of attending college.

Dr. Yuan and his students have been tracking particulate organic carbon via satellite in the Gulf of Mexico. Yuan, who has been observing the Gulf of Mexico over a decade, said the satellite indicated enormously high particulate organic carbon after the BP oil spill (2010). Studies like this one permit students to apply lessons learned in GIS Remote Sensing courses to various bodies of water like the Gulf of Mexico. A second research project that Dr. Yuan oversaw included their study of the early blooming of flowers and trees in northeast North Carolina. Students were trying to determine if those changes are related to El Nino. A third student research project Yuan oversaw explored the distribution of a naturally occurring sea grass, sargassum, in the Atlantic Ocean. Students also tried to determine if it is affected by El Nino. Participating students are required to have a minimum grade point average of 3.3.

The Department of Homeland Security funds remote sensing research projects so students can learn how to use satellite-tracking technology. Yuan’s DHS grant has permitted 16 students to conduct one or more semesters of research since 2012.  Some will continue participating in this type of research until 2018. The Department of Homeland Security hopes to attract students into DHS-related careers in the future. These research projects are exceptional opportunities for undergraduate research in the Department of Natural Sciences.