University of Vermont

Alexandra Arnsten

Environmental sciences major, worked summers in Greenland and Norway

Alexandra Arnsten '12

A chance meeting at a Christmas party helped Alexandra Arnsten nail two summer research jobs during her time at UVM. "I met someone who was the leader in a research company (the Norwegian Institute for Air Research - NILU). By the end of the night, we were talking about possible flight times for me to fly to Greenland that summer." 

But NILU first sent Arnsten to Colorado to be trained on a field spectrometer -- a highly specialized instrument that measures wavelengths and deviated rays -- an instrument that no one else at the Greenland research base was familiar with. She learned it and brought the $80,000 instrument to Greenland.

How did Arnsten land her internship/job?

  • "I showed an extreme interest and kept in contact," she says.

NILU's campaign in Greenland used an unmanned aerial vehicle to fly over the ice and take measurements of the snow's reflectance. Arnsten was part of the ground group -- measuring the same things the plane was doing but from the ground. At elevation 13,000 feet there is flat ice and zero topography. Arnsten says she felt totally immersed in her research. "If the plane flew at 10 p.m. we were out there."

The job turned into another with NILU the following summer in Norway where Arnsten found herself one of the leads on the ground team crew.

Arnsten says that her work experience for the summer added a relevancy to the work she continued back at UVM. "It opened the door to me to the geospatial computer modeling aspect of polar science," so Arnsten was able to adjust her courseload at UVM to include some of the computing courses that would prove necessary as she pursues graduate school and a career in climate science.

She's confident that her work at UVM has provided a strong foundation for her future explorations. "I've always found that every professor I have seems really interested in the subject matter and really enthused by what their students are thinking and coming up with," she says. "When I put a lot of effort into a project I know they're going to care."