Dr. Eric Marland wants his students to know that studying mathematics doesn’t mean they are isolated to just that discipline. In fact, in the Mathematics (BS) - Physical Sciences concentration, students learn how math and sciences work together.
Marland has received funding for two projects with the National Forest Service that require mathematical and statistical analysis of the forest offset protocols for climate change agreements and the service’s data on harvested wood products. Two students and another faculty member are collaborating on one of the projects, with more than five students and four faculty members collaborating on the second. The faculty members represent fields from across campus and come together to offer different perspectives in understanding issues related to climate change policy and carbon accounting methodologies.
“I think it’s important for students to see that conversation where we look at the same problem but from different aspects,” Marland said. “You learn so much from hearing how someone from a different background and expertise views the same problem you’ve been looking at.”
Marland recently completed a research project for NASA that included a team of students and faculty. The team was part of the NASA Carbon Monitoring System, helping understand uncertainties in anthropogenic emissions from fossil fuel sources. This work helps to improve correlations to satellite measurements and the atmospheric flow of carbon.
Marland said students who get involved in research gain important, career-enhancing experiences. The students help in understanding the science, write algorithms, write computer code to simulate experiments, analyze and contextualize the results, and assist in getting the final products to publication. Students help according to both their current skills and their interest in expanding their knowledge.
Marland, who has been at Appalachian since 2002, said he enjoys helping students find what they are interested in. “It is fun to see things click,” he said. “When they first start, they don’t really know why they are in college, and then by the end they know where they want to go from here. Watching that growth is interesting and rewarding.”