Kelly Neubauer ’18 Conducts Atmospheric Research at SRI International

Neubauer is exploring atmospheric chemistry at the leading research institute.
Posted on July 27th, 2016 by

When Kelly Neubauer begins her junior year at Gustavus Adolphus College this fall, she’ll already have two summers of research experience under her belt. After taking advantage of the College’s First-Year Research Experience (FYRE) last year, Neubauer is spending this summer at SRI International in Menlo Park, Calif.

During her time at SRI International – the research institute responsible for inventing the computer mouse and sending the first internet transmission – Neubauer is conducting research on chemical reactions in the Earth’s atmosphere. The project, which is supervised by SRI’s Senior Program Manager of the Center for Geospace Studies Kostas Kalogerakis, Senior Scientist Gregory Smith, and Postdoctoral Fellow Yingdi Liu, focuses on excited electronic states in the atmosphere and requires a knowledge of both physics and chemistry for analysis.

“My studies at Gustavus have taught me to appreciate the interconnectedness between subjects like chemistry, physics, and biology and have motivated me to want to learn more,” Neubauer said.

Neubauer is conducting atmospheric research at SRI International this summer.

Neubauer is conducting atmospheric research at SRI International this summer.

Her first foray into intensive research came last summer, when she participated in the Gustavus FYRE program. Each year, FYRE allows students to conduct research with faculty members during the summer months before their sophomore year. The 10-week, full-time program paired Neubauer with physics professor Steve Mellema ’72 to study optical scattering.

“The FYRE program is somewhat unique in that it gets students into the research lab between the first year and sophomore year, something that’s not always possible at other institutions,” Gustavus chemistry professor and fellowships coordinator Amanda Nienow said. “We’ve observed more engagement and curiosity from students with early research experiences. The relationships students form with each other and with professors in their field give them insight into how science works, helps them builds a mentoring network, and strengthens the culture in our academic departments.”

“While lab courses during my first year taught me a lot, being able to work more closely with a professor on a research project was a valuable experience,” Neubauer agreed. “I gained more knowledge and experience in physics and especially in optics, electronics, and programming that have been helpful this summer at SRI.”

This summer in California, the physics major has learned more about atmospheric chemistry, including the chemical reactions that occur high in the Earth’s atmosphere as well as how those lessons can be applied to study the atmospheres of other planets. In addition to the research itself, Neubauer has been exposed to the professional expectations of working in a high-level nonprofit lab setting.

“I was surprised at first by how much scientists work together and ask for help and advice from others working on different projects or who are in different departments,” she said. “But science and innovation are at the core of SRI and the institution has built an incredible and supportive network for scientists to excel in.”

Back on campus, Neubauer plays clarinet in the Gustavus Wind Orchestra and Gustavus Symphony Orchestra and is an active member of the Physics Club. Although she’s only halfway through her time at Gustavus, she’s already thinking about continuing her studies in graduate school, where she hopes to focus on chemical or geological physics.

Neubauer’s summer placement was made through the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program.

sriinternational“My research at SRI International has been an incredible learning experience,” Neubauer said. “I’d like to thank my REU program and project advisers, SRI International, and my professors at Gustavus for helping me take advantage of this great opportunity.”

The Stanford Research Institute was founded in 1946 by Stanford University. It became independent from the university and changed its name to SRI International in 1977 to match its mission and expanding presence. Today, SRI International has 21 locations throughout the United States and around the world.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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