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Andrea Belvis-Aquino

Andrea Belvis-Aquino, a 2023 WHOI Summer Student Fellow from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez. (Photo by Catherine Zhang)

Ever since I was younger, I knew about WHOI and how it's the place to be for oceanography. And when I was a freshman in college, I came upon an ad for the SSF program. So I was like, “This is it,” and I bookmarked it for when I became a rising senior.

My major is industrial engineering, but I'm also doing a minor in atmospheric sciences and meteorology. Here at WHOI, I'm working with an amazing advisor, Caroline Ummenhofer, who works with atmosphere and ocean interactions. So it’s the perfect way to combine both areas that I study. With Caroline, I'm using ocean salinity to understand rainfall variability and wheat yields specifically in Australia, as sea surface salinity is a great way to predict rainfall in specific areas. So we're trying to find a way to predict it at least three months in advance so that we can tell farmers, “Okay, this is going to be a good season, a rainy season, a dry season,” and help the community make decisions about what they are going to do with their crops.

Before I knew I wanted to do science, I knew I wanted to do something that could help my community. Sometimes it's hard to explain technical concepts to people in your community. But that's the most important part, getting it out there. For example, that project I'm working on with Caroline, it's for the farmers. So that's been very important to me, to learn how to communicate with them.

I want to pursue a Ph.D., so the Summer Student Fellowship has helped me think about the topics I’d like to pursue, and has also helped me identify the good characteristics in a research advisor, like Caroline. Research is maybe not for everyone. It takes a lot of time and dedication, and I feel like having this experience before continuing onto a Master's or Ph.D. really helps you decide what you want. And also having interdisciplinary experiences helps you to see that there's so much more out there than maybe what you're learning in your classes.

I'm very grateful for the opportunity to spend two months here at WHOI, researching and learning from so many amazing scientists. I hope I can motivate other students to be part of the SSF program and get out of their comfort zone. Coming from Puerto Rico, it's a bit different being here, but it's been a really nice experience.