Gaining perspective on climate change with NASA summer program
Srija Chakraborty, a computer engineering doctoral student in the Fulton Schools, was selected to participate in the summer program at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Center for Climate Sciences hosted by Keck Institute for Space Studies, Caltech and JPL.
Chakraborty was one of 24 students who attended the program, each of which are conducting research related to satellite observations. Her research interest lies in developing improved machine learning and signal processing algorithms for remote sensing data analysis.
“I study data collected by satellites and try to improve the algorithms to analyze them,” Chakraborty says. “I have had a very strong interest in space exploration since childhood. Since I have a background in computer science, I took up a remote sensing course to see how computers can be leveraged in Earth and space exploration and I enjoyed the course immensely and I decided to pursue my research in it.”
In the program, the students had a packed schedule with lectures followed by interactive sessions. They then each presented their own research and had a group project they worked on throughout the week and presented their results on the final day.
“The lectures ranged from very broad science and engineering topics to the kind of projects JPL and NASA are involved in,” Chakraborty says. “We not only learned how challenging Earth and space science research is, but also about some of the future missions and their objectives. It was very evident that our planet faces immense risk posed by climate change and uncertainty arising from what exactly we are heading towards and how quickly, even with the vast number of satellites and ground based observations and models, so there needs to a significant effort in improving the way we analyze the data.”
“We also had a JPL tour where we visited the labs and mission control areas and that was a very special experience,” says Chakraborty. “There were groups at JPL whose research interests are similar to mine and it was enriching to learn about the approaches that they take which along with the science lectures could help in my research. I also had the pleasure to interact with a scientist working on an upcoming asteroid mission which is very interesting and novel in its own way.”
The planet is collectively facing enormous challenges due to climate change and researchers such as Chakraborty are using satellite observations to improve our understanding of what is actually happening and what we are heading towards.
“Right now we have more data than what we can understand or forecast correctly and I would like to study ways to analyze and handle such data from satellites in an integrated manner,” Chakraborty says. “As of now, we do not have a high variety and volume of data from other planets in our solar system as well as exoplanets. I hope that future missions would fill in this data void and I hope to contribute to the analysis and understanding of such environments for supporting deep space missions.”
Erik Wirtanen, email@example.com
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering