Two FAU Charles E. Schmidt College of Science students were winners in the 58th annual Florida Society of Geographers Awards. Department of Geosciences Ph.D. candidates Asha Paudel won the “Outstanding Oral Presenter, Ph.D.” award, and David Brodylo received the “Outstanding Poster Presenter, Ph.D.” award.
Paudel won for her presentation on “Simulating Shrub-conifer Dynamics Due to High Severe Fire in the Mixed Conifer Forest of Northern Sierra Nevada, California.”
“Winning this award is one of the most rewarding aspects of my Ph.D. career, as it indicates that I am improving my presentation skills in what is my third language,” said Paudel. “I am ecstatic to have been recognized and inspired to do better.”
Brodylo won his award for his “Identification of Ice Features in an Alaskan Permafrost Tunnel with Terrestrial LiDAR” poster. He is also a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Geosciences, with a focus in GIS and remote sensing.
“[Winning] means a lot to me, as it helps with reflecting on all the progress that I have made over the years,” said Brodylo. “It also aids as an additional source of motivation to keep on doing what I've been doing, along with seeking for ways to improve upon that.”
In 1964, the Florida Society of Geographers was chartered as a non-profit organization in order to further professionalism in the field of geography through the application of geographic techniques in all areas of education, government and business.
Erik Johanson, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geosciences, is also the President of the Society.
“FAU is very involved in the Society,” said Johanson. “There is a great faculty turnout, and our graduate students have a strong presence. I’m thrilled that two of our students won competitive awards for ‘Best Presentations’ at the conference.”
Participating in conferences can help build up students’ confidence, communication skills and networking abilities.
“It’s a chance for them to get good feedback from big names in the field from all over the state,” said Johanson. “Students can practice their skills, share their results and become known in the broader discipline.”
Zhixiao Xie, Ph.D., Chair and Professor for the Department of Geosciences, states, “The faculty in geosciences are very supportive and encouraging to students. This is an excellent venue for students to connect with peers, interact with experts, and build science communications skills.” Xie, who also serves as the Principal Investigator (PI) for the National Science Foundation funded GEOPATHS program, says, “We had the opportunity to present how we are recruiting students, particularly underrepresented minorities, with the GEOPATHS Inspirational Summer Program. Fellow faculty were impressed with the program’s ability to transform educational and career pathways in the sciences. We are confident our model can be replicated and adopted by other geoscience programs to attract and train more students to ameliorate the shortage of geoscientists in the U.S. workforce.”
Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, Evonne Rezler, Ph.D., remarks, “This conference was a strong showcasing of our students, and PIs from Florida Atlantic and Palm Beach State College. Our leadership had the opportunity to present an initiative called the GEOPATHS Inspirational Summer Program that the Schmidt College of Science is working on in collaboration with Palm Beach State College to show how we are forging pathways towards emerging and high-demand careers in the geosciences for students.” Rezler goes on to say, “Conferences such as the Florida Society of Geographers allow you to understand where the needs are growing around the nation and the world for our students.”
“Participating in conferences as a Ph.D. student seeking a career in academia is critical for connecting with other researchers and expanding networks in the scientific community,” explained Paudel.
Engaging in this conference also had a deeper meaning for Paudel.
“I was born and raised in a patriarchal society where women are generally shy and are not encouraged to speak in public,” she said. “I've always struggled with myself to overcome this cultural instinct and push myself outside of my comfort zone when it comes to public speaking. Attending a conference and presenting my research has greatly boosted my confidence and improved my ability to disseminate the goals and findings of my research.”
Brodylo said that many of his classes at FAU have provided him with invaluable knowledge and applications of the software and methods related to geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing. His advisor, Professor Caiyun Zhang, Ph.D., helped to introduce Brodylo to exciting new advances in technology, such as drone mapping and the Google Earth Engine, both of which have become key components of his research at FAU.
After graduation, Brodylo said that he hopes to travel and see more of the world before settling into a meaningful career.
Paudel plans to secure a tenure track position in academia after she receives her degree. She aspires to become a successful researcher and mentor, as well as make a positive impact on society.