Fall at MIT brings a new semester’s worth of coursework, changing scenery, and, for members of the Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate (PAOC) within MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), a much-anticipated escape for scientific discussion, recreation, and relaxation.
This year’s annual PAOC retreat, which took place on Saturday, September 29th, 2018, and was generously supported by the Houghton Fund, brought faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students from Woods Hole and Cambridge to the MIT Endicott House, a magnificent 25-acre historic estate located 10 miles south of Boston in Dedham, Massachusetts.
Since the retreat was first introduced, in 2003, the annual event has typically taken place over the course of an entire weekend. This year, however, because the retreat immediately followed a two-day celebration in Woods Hole for the 50th anniversary of the MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography, the event was condensed into one full day of social and educational activities for students and faculty.
The shortened time frame didn’t stop the event from being packed full of opportunities for PAOC affiliates to befriend new colleagues, learn about recent research, and enjoy time away from bustling Boston. The day began with several social events organized by the 2018 Retreat Committee: EAPS graduate students Kalina Grabb, Jing He, Ellen Lalk, Jonathan Lin, Ali Ramadhan, and Noelle Held. Guests were welcomed with a lunch on a patio overlooking the Blue Hills, where they bonded over a friendly competition to see which table could compile the longest list of things they all had in common. Shortly after, the group’s local area knowledge was put to the test as teams of students and faculty paired up for trivia on Boston-area facts (Did you know Marshmallow Fluff was invented in Somerville?), as well as geography (naming all of the world’s seas), and cultural icons (identifying The Garden of Earthly Delights from a picture).
The event continued with the annual State of PAOC presentation, where Prof. Raffaele Ferrari, PAOC chair and EAPS Cecil & Ida Green Professor of Oceanography, gave updates on the program’s successes from the past year and shared insights into its future endeavors. A few of the recent awards within PAOC include faculty member Susan Solomon’s selection to the 2018 Crafoord Prize, graduate student Gabriela Serrato Marks winning a MindHandHeart Innovation Fund grant, and Associate Professor Paul O'Gorman being awarded a 2018 School of Science Teaching Prize. Another highlight was Lorenz Center co-director and EAPS Cecil & Ida Green Professor of Atmospheric Science Kerry Emanuel’s selection to the 2018 Class of AGU Fellows. Later, O'Gorman and EAPS graduate student Rohini Shivamoggi gave an update on the Charney Library renovations, to begin later this year, which will double the size of the library to create a comfortable new communal meeting and study area for students. The renovations are being made possible thanks to generous gifts from MIT alumni and friends, many of whom attended the Charney-Lorenz symposiumin February 2018.
In typical PAOC retreat fashion, a keynote speaker was invited to present a short, thought-provoking scientific discussion on an integrated research project in the geosciences field. This year, assistant scientist Paulo Brando of the Woods Hole Research Center and Amazon Environmental Research Institute presented on the resiliency of Amazonian trees to long-term drought, including some exciting new developments in Amazonian tropical forest degradation, land use change, and remote sensing technology. He also touched on how scientists can better communicate their research, the limitations of the “publish or perish” mindset in science, and the importance of diversity in science.
Following the keynote address, the evening winded down with a cocktail reception and group dinner inside Endicott House, where faculty and students based at MIT and WHOI caught up with each other before boarding shuttles back to their respective destinations.