Earth Institute Summer 2017 Internships

by |April 5, 2017

This summer, the Earth Institute is offering Columbia students opportunities to intern within various departments and research centers at the institute. All full-time Columbia and Barnard students are eligible to apply. These internships are funded at a rate of $15/hour for up to 35 hours per week. See below for the descriptions of these opportunities.

  • Characterizing Past North Pacific Ocean Circulation Using Nd Isotopes
  • Game theory, child psychology and enhanced methods of monitoring and incentivizing wearing of sensors via a smartwatch app
  • Improving minute ventilation estimates through short term field calibrations
  • Invasion of ticks and their pathogens in the New York metropolitan area
  • Mapping Air Pollutants in NYC
  • Sabin Center Summer Internship
  • Sea Ice Variability over Antarctica: Testing Climate Model Data with Weather Stations and Satellite Data

To apply: 

To apply for these positions, complete the online application available here: https://fs21.formsite.com/earthinstitute/form126/index.html, by April 26 at 11:30 p.m. While you may apply for more than one position, you must submit separate applications for each. Decisions will be made shortly after the deadline.

Note that students who are awarded internships will be expected to participate in the Earth Institute Student Research Showcase, which will take place in spring 2018.

Contact Jessica Sotomayor (jsotomayor@ei.columbia.edu) with questions. You may also address cover letters to Jessica Sotomayor, senior program manager, Office of Academic and Research Programs.


  1. Characterizing Past North Pacific Ocean Circulation Using Nd Isotopes

Department: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Project detail: Student will assist in preparing deep sea core samples for isotope analyses. It will involve separating microfossils (fish debris and foraminifera) from marine sediments, and help with chemical processing and mass spectrometry.

Job description: The student will gain experience working on a paleo-climate research project in a laboratory setting and learn the principles of Nd (neodymium) isotope analyses. The student will have a small focused project that could turn into a senior thesis. The student will have the opportunity to participate in Goldstein Lab meetings discussing ongoing research employing Nd isotopes to reconstruct records of ocean circulation around the globe. They may be able to present the work at scientific meetings and be authors of scientific papers.

Anticipated tasks:

  • The overall scope of the project is to reconstruct a record of North Pacific Ocean circulation over the past 1.2 Ma. Today it does not generate a major water mass that participates in the global ocean circulation, but it may have in the past, especially during ice ages.
  • The undergraduate will assist in sample preparation for this project and will participate in the analyses. They will have their own project within the scope of the larger project.

Skills required: No prior experience necessary, except a willingness to learn. Should be organized, neat, careful in handling small samples, and show attention to detail.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate


  1. Game theory, child psychology and enhanced methods of monitoring and incentivizing wearing of sensors via a smartwatch app

Department: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Project detail: This project is a supplement to a larger R&D project. The work will form part of a larger project developing a modular array of miniaturized personal monitors for pediatric asthma studies. If the project is successful it will substantially improve our ability to carry out personal exposure assessment in cohort studies of children.

Job description: Working with the mentors, the intern will help develop and field test an open source smart watch app. The intern will interact with focus groups of different age children to help develop the logic of smart watch user interface as well as test it in the lab and field. The objective of the smart watch app is to encourage in real-time children to wear an air monitor vest for more than 12 hrs a day and record hours of use. Collaborators at UCLA have recently developed a smart watch app to interact with air monitors via blue tooth, which is being modified for this project. Our goal is to provide the logic for the incentive and user interface for the sub routine of the smart watch app and figure out whether and how it can be usefully deployed.

Anticipated tasks:

  • The project will entail collecting data from human volunteers in focus groups, as well as field and laboratory settings, carrying out simple statistical analysis, and writing up results.
    • The intern will gain hands on experience in an interdisciplinary collaborative research project developing novel software and hardware applications.

Skills required: Good people skills, especially with children (which will require human subjects and protection of minors training, which can be obtained after the internship begins). Major pluses would be familiarity with popular video games for young children, game theory and child psychology, as well as experience with programming smart watches (android and/or other watch SDKs) and wireless protocols (BBL).

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate


  1. Improving minute ventilation estimates through short term field calibrations

Department: Environmental Health Sciences, CUMC

Project detail: The work is part of a larger project examining the health effects of short-duration air pollution exposures incurred by New Yorkers who commute by bicycle. If the project is successful, the pneumotach data will substantially improve the reliability of data collection in the parent biking study.

Job description: Working with the mentor, the intern will develop, test, and refine a protocol for using a small, portable pneumotachometer to improve estimates of minute ventilation acquired using a biometric shirt. Collaborators have recently developed a portable pneumotach that is easily deployed and that logs data. Our goal for the summer is to figure out whether and how this new technology can be usefully deployed in a research setting.

Anticipated tasks:

  • The project will entail collecting data from human volunteers in field and laboratory settings using the pneumotach and other biometric devices, carrying out simple statistical analysis, and writing up results.
    • The intern will gain hands-on research experience, centering on the assessment of the research potential of an innovative new technology. Depending on the successful candidate’s skills and interests, the project will also offer a meaningful opportunity to deploy data science skills in a high impact research setting.

Skills required: Some familiarity with the R statistical programming language would be ideal. Willingness to work with human volunteers (will require human subjects training, which can be obtained after the internship begins). An interest in exploring uses of new sensor technologies.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate, PhD


  1. Invasion of ticks and their pathogens in the New York metropolitan area

Department: Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology

Project detail: Throughout New York state, there has been an increase in the human cases of Lyme disease associated with a range expansion of the blacklegged tick. Parameters measured in this study will be incorporated into agent based models of the invasion of ticks, pathogens and human disease.

Job description: Throughout New York state, there has been an increase in the human cases of Lyme disease associated with a range expansion of the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis. Samples collected by interns will be used to examine the role of host movement in the distribution and expansion of ticks into various land use types (urban/suburban/natural areas).

Samples acquired as part of this project will be used in a tick population genomic study to investigate population structure in relation to anthropogenic landscape features (corridors, barriers).

Anticipated tasks:

  • The intern will participate in field collections of ticks, rodents and sampling host biological materials (blood, tissue, ticks). Most activities will be conducted in the NY City metropolitan area with some short into neighboring states.
    • The intern will gain skills working with vertebrate hosts and arthropod vectors of disease; he/she will gain an understanding of the mechanisms involved in the invasion of vector borne diseases in relation to anthropogenic change and there will be opportunities to continue working on the molecular analyses of the data, if so desired.

Skills required: Interns should be comfortable working outdoors in sometimes difficult conditions. Experience handling rodents or birds is preferred, but not required. A driving license is preferred but not required.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate


  1. Mapping Air Pollutants in NYC

Department: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Project Description: The candidate will join a team in a collaborative project that maps dynamic air pollution levels throughout the New York City using GPS and air pollutant data collected from biker mobile subjects and a model based on data collected from fixed-site city monitors (https://project.wnyc.org/map-my-air/).

Job Description: The intern will benefit from improving her/his understanding of air pollution and environmental health and working within a collaborative research group. This project will also help the intern enhance technical skills such as temporal and spatial analysis, computer programming and database development, as well as allow them to work on project management skills.

Anticipated tasks:

  • combine the biker mobile records and model output into a database,
  • conduct time series analysis and spatial interpolation models on selected records,
  • compare with corresponding mobile sessions to the city-wide model that uses seasonal averages adjusted to average daily and hourly levels from City monitors, and
  • potentially improve the city-wide model by incorporating additional data streams to account for short-term high-resolution variability in dynamic air pollutant levels.

Skills required: Basic statistics, database development, and familiarity with one or more computer programs, such as R.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate


  1. Sabin Center Summer Internship

Department: Center for Climate Change Law

Job description: The intern will work with Sabin Center staff on cross-cutting climate change, energy, and/or environmental policy issues. The intern will contribute to ongoing projects within the Sabin Center. The intern will be directly supervised by Romany Webb and Justin Gundlach, Climate Law Fellows, and will also work with Michael Gerrard, Faculty Director, and Michael Burger, Executive Director.

Anticipated tasks: Based on past intern experiences, the tasks may entail:

  • Compilation of technical information to support legal briefs
  • Contribution to white papers on energy efficiency laws
  • Draft blog posts on clean energy policies, and
  • Prepare country profiles for the Sabin Center’s Climate Change Laws of the World.
    • The intern will gain broad exposure to the field of climate change law and hands-on experience researching and writing in that field.

Skills required: The internship is open to undergraduate and master’s students. Students should have strong academic qualifications and an interest in climate change policy. Experience in environmental policy, energy policy, and/or sustainable development is a plus.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate, PhD


  1. Sea Ice Variability over Antarctica: Testing Climate Model Data with Weather Stations and Satellite Data

Department: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Project detail: The intern will generate the base dataset for this project. This will include both climate model output and satellite data.

Anticipated tasks: The intern will be responsible for:

    • Downloading and analyzing climate model data over Antarctica for the last 60 years
    • Comparing the climate model data with in-situ weather station data
    • Work with satellite images of sea ice extent over Antarctica and derive correlations between changing climate parameters like winds with the sea ice extent.

The student will benefit in the following ways:

    • Familiarity with techniques involving downloading and analysis of climate model data
    • Statistical techniques for analysis of large datasets
    • Handling and processing of satellite data
    • Basic physics of sea ice formation and its interaction with climate parameters such as winds.Sss

Skills required: Matlab skills preferred. Knowledge of ARC GIS is a plus.

Type of student desired: Undergraduate, Graduate


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