Three bright, up and coming scientists at Columbia from UW Oceanography!

The Columbia Trio!

Three recent graduates, Una Miller, Michelle Lee, and Junzhe Liu from the School of Oceanography are now at Columbia University. They graduated from the University of Washington in 2015, 2018, and 2022, respectively. They all worked in Paul Johnson’s lab doing research and now are now together in New York City

Their research and journey to Columbia are highlighted below. The following is based on on email interviews with the three of them and the photos were taken during their time at UW Oceanography. 

 

When did you graduate from UW Oceanography and what did you research?

Una:

I graduated in 2015. I researched methane seeps on the Cascadia margin with Paul and Susan and did my senior thesis on surface water alkalinity in Nootka Sound, British Columbia.

 

Michelle:

Graduated in June 2018. My research was focused on looking at methane plumes along the Washington margin of Cascadia and the entrainment of methane into the water column from the plumes. 

 

Jerry:

Graduated spring 2022. My research at UW was mainly two projects: Puget Sound Plumes and Methane (Professor Paul Johnson's Lab) and Mixed Layer Depth (individual).
 

 

What is your favorite memory from UW Oceanography?

Una:

All of my favorite memories involve research cruises - the ones I went on with Paul and our senior thesis cruise in the beautiful fjords of Nootka Sound. Sunsets, great people, shark sightings, stargazing, lost goose rescuing, funny stories told during late night shifts, awesome snacks... not to mention, exciting science! I can't pick just one favorite memory. 

 

Michelle:

I have so many amazing and unforgettable memories from UW Oceanography from the various research opportunities and the wide range of courses, to all the fun social activities. But if I have to pick my favorite memory from UW Oceanography, it would have to be the deployment/launch day for the Ocean 261/361/461 course where we deployed the instruments we built during the quarter off the MSB dock and into the bay. After spending the quarter designing, building, and testing our instruments in the lab, this day was essentially the "moment of truth" time to see if the instruments we designed and built would return data to us from the bottom of the bay. I remember everyone gathering around the monitor anxiously waiting to see if data would start streaming from our instruments and we would all be happy together once we began to see the data coming in live. I would have to say that this moment is one memory (or three rather since I took all three courses) that I would never forget!

 

Jerry:

Friday Harbor! Can't miss it more.
 

 

Why did you choose to go to Columbia and what will you be researching?
Una:

I chose to go to Columbia because my experiences working with various aspects of the carbon cycle (methane seeps and surface alkalinity) got me interested in processes that facilitate the exchange of carbon between the ocean and atmosphere, and my current advisor does a lot of really cool work in that area. 

 

Michelle:

One of the main reasons I chose to go to Columbia was because of the proposed research projects and field expeditions I would get to do and participate in if I came to Columbia. From the research I did at UW with Paul and through the courses and research cruises I went on at UW (especially the VISIONS cruise), I found myself very fascinated with working on geophysical data from the seafloor in particular pertaining to seamounts and methane plumes, as well as going on sea expeditions. So research and fieldwork were things I prioritized when choosing a grad school and I'm really glad I ended up choosing Columbia for those reasons. 

At Columbia, my research focus is on imaging and characterizing subseafloor structures associated with active magmatic and hydrothermal processes at and near seamounts on the Juan de Fuca plate from ridge to trench. Specifically, the first part of my Ph.D. thesis focuses on imaging and characterizing magma bodies and crustal structures at Axial Seamount using multichannel seismic data as well as ambient noise techniques. The later part of my Ph.D. thesis focuses on examining sediment consolidation and hydrothermal circulation at and near buried seamounts along the Cascadia margin.

 

Jerry:

Although Columbia is a great institution, my choice to come here depends more on the professor--Dr. Christopher Zappa. My interest lies in the surface ocean processes in the sea-air boundary layer. Chris does a whole range of things, including the sea-air gas exchange and mixing/turbulence processes (core of my previous research). There are also processes and features that are 'unavailable' to me before (too advanced both theoretically and observationally) but also of great importance. I just started and am still learning. No certain topic so far.  

 


What have you been doing in between these two programs?
Una:

I graduated in 2015 and started grad school in 2016. I took a much-needed year off, continuing to work with Paul and making time to catch up on sleep and make video game character costumes with my friends. 

 

Michelle:

I graduated from UW Oceanography June of 2018 and began at Columbia for grad school that following Fall (Fall 2018). From the time between June and September of 2018, I actually remained at UW and continued working with Paul in his lab up until the day before I flew to NYC to move in and get settled, just about 2 weeks before the start date at Columbia. During those two weeks, in addition to just moving in and getting set up, I also acted as a tourist and visited the popular tourist attractions of NYC. 

 

Jerry:

Finishing up the undergrad research projects -- both are now in the writing process. Reading papers, practicing/replicating previous project methods (that will be used in the future), getting to know the lab and equipment (when I officially started working), and later on a project trip before fall semester started.

 


Will you continue to see your fellow UW Oceanography alumni every first Friday?

Una:

Next time I visit Seattle on a Friday, I will stop by!!

 

Michelle:

While we don't have first Fridays here at Columbia, we do have colloquium and TG every Friday so I'm sure I'll get to see fellow UW Ocean alumni during some of those, if not elsewhere around the LDEO campus. Beyond the designated Lamont activities, I would be more than happy to gather together with both Una and Jerry, and am confident that will happen during the time while all of us are still at Columbia. While none of us actually crossed paths during our time at UW, we all somehow went from working in the same lab room as Paul's undergrad research assistants to connecting with one another here in NYC through our PhDs at Columbia. I think that the connection and shared pathway we have between the three of us is definitely something special and unique. 

 

Jerry:

Of course! Is there an online version of First Friday? 

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