PAOC Spotlights

The 2019 PAOC Retreat: Jiminy Peak

Wed October 9th, 2019
Daisy M Cabán & Martín Velez Pardo | MIT
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Student, Megan Lickley, participates in a Q&A with (left to right) Speaker David McGee (MIT),
Speaker Harriet Ritvo (MIT), Panelist Stephanie Dutkiewicz (MIT) and Speaker James Fleming (Colby College, ME)


This year’s annual PAOC retreat had students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty and staff from MIT’s Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences escape to Jiminy Peak in Hancock, MA for a weekend event of science and socializing. The timing couldn’t have been any more perfect during the retreat from October 4-6, 2019 as the foliage in the Berkshires Mountains were bursting in fall colors and the weather started to cool down, enough for Jiminy staff to turn up the fire in the outdoor pits.

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The retreat, which is generously supported by the Houghton Fund, went full-swing early Saturday morning with a series of talks. This year’s theme was History of Climate: Climate’s Current and Historical Impact on Cultural, Political, and Social Development.

In his keynote presentation, EAPS's own David McGee walked the audience through some of the ways in which past climate changes, particularly changes in precipitation, might have impacted the survival, stability and displacements of different human groups across history, in a complex interplay between environmental circumstances and social, economic, and political factors.

Then, Harriet Ritvo, Arthur J. Conner Professor of History at MIT, used the case of the spread of zoonotic diseases to illustrate how demographic changes have brought about environmental challenges, and how those in turn have impacted human affairs. Too often, Professor Ritvo showed, have human groups defaulted to blaming 'others' for diseases and challenges of unclear origin.

Finally, James Fleming, Charles A. Dana Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Colby College, talked about some of the great milestones in the development of atmospheric science over the past two centuries, and emphasized how the adoption of new technologies by atmospheric scientists has been crucial for the growth of the field.

After the presentations, a panel that included the speakers, as well as EAPS Senior Research Scientist Stephanie Dutkiewicz, answered questions from the audience about topics including the importance of activism and communication in climate science, the analogies used to conceptualize the physics of the atmosphere, and the relative effectiveness of scientific knowledge in overcoming social and political bias.

Saturday afternoon had everyone enjoying a hike up Mount Greylock or Jiminy Peak, visiting the nearby Ioka Valley Farm, and participating in the resort’s outdoor adventure park. Dinner started with Taco Tuesday on a Saturday which set the mood for the, ever so famous at the retreats, talent show hosted by Martin Wolf (and, his amazing bowtie) and Lesly Franco. And, talent, there was! Our ears were delighted with the singing voice of Cora Hersh while she played the ukulele. We found laughter when Jonathan Lin and Raphael Rousseau-Rizzo (lyrics, below) took on a parody version of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” to carry out “My PhD Will Go On.” We found even more laughter when Professor Paul O’Gorman and his family invited the audience to compete against who can make the most juggles with a soccer ball. Let’s just say that the clear challenge winner was the Argentinian superstar, Lionel Messi Santiago Benavides.

Early Sunday morning started with Research Roundup as each student, postdoc and faculty summarized their current projects in under one minute. Followed with lunch, was the State of PAOC summed up by chair Raffaele Ferrari which included events and news from last year and where the department is planning on going. And, as the fog breached the tips of the mountains and rain started to drizzle Saturday’s sun-soaked grounds, the retreat came to an end.

A special thanks to the 2019 PAOC retreat student committee: Constantin Arnscheidt, Lesly Franco, Lyssa Freese, Praneeth Gurumurthy, Don Martocello, Martín Velez Pardo and Martin Wolf for your grand efforts in putting this retreat together while still tackling school work and exams!

My PhD Will Go On

Every night in my dreams
I see it, I feel it
That is how I know it goes on
Far across the distance
And spaces between us
It has come to show it goes on

Near, far, wherever it is
I believe my Ph.D. goes on
Once more I procrastinate
And it’s here on my mind
My thesis will go on and on

Quals can crush us one time
And pain lasts a lifetime
And never let go till we're done
First year’s when I loved it
One true time I hoped to
Finish in five years and move on

Near, far, wherever it is
I believe my Ph.D. goes on
Once more I procrastinate
And it’s here on my mind
My thesis will go on and on

Defense is all that I fear
Cause I know it’s the end of grad school
I’d stay forever this way
I am safe in grad school, from
Real world jobs or tenure track