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My Experience with SCEC SOURCES

To say that the Southern California Earthquake Center's Supported Opportunities for Undergraduates and Researchers to Collaborate on Earthquake Science (SOURCES) 2022 Internship Program was a positive experience would be quite the understatement. As a non-traditional undergraduate student, returning to college in my 30’s has not been an easy task. When initially applying for internships in my second year of undergrad with minimal experience, I wasn't the most confident in my chances for being selected into the program. SCEC took a chance on me, welcomed me into the program with open arms, and far exceeded my expectations for my first internship experience. Dr. Gabriela Noriega, SCEC’s director of Experiential Learning and Career Advancement did a wonderful job on every level. The SOURCES Program consisted of professional development training, leadership workshops, and learning real-world research practices. Interns were required to meet with Dr. Noriega twice per week remotely, once for group cohort meetings and another for "Career Talk" sessions. During group cohort meetings, interns discussed project milestones, progress, difficulties encountered and received helpful feedback and guidance. The career talks were a great opportunity to meet and network with past interns from SCEC, as well as research and industry professionals.

School of Geography, Environment & Earth Sciences.

My research mentor, Dr. John Louie, is a Professor of Geophysics at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR). Dr. Louie's seismic research spans the Reno, Nevada region as well as Wellington, New Zealand. Dr. Louie broke down expectations for me early and was very helpful in guiding me every week. By the end of the summer of 2022, I felt confident in physics and seismology fundamentals, which came in handy for my Fall 2022 school semester where I enrolled in my first college physics course. Our summer research focused on building low frequency computational seismic models using SW4 software from the Computational Infrastructure for Geodynamics (CIG). Project objectives aimed to compute and analyze seismic ground motions through the Wellington sedimentary basin to better understand focused seismic energy, help inform hazard planning, and improve preparation for expected seismic events. At the end of the summer, SCEC provided the amazing opportunity to present this research in person, at the 2022 SCEC Annual Meeting in Palm Springs, California. The annual meeting allowed interns to meet fellow colleagues and advisors and included various workshops with industry professionals.

After being offered a fall extension, I furthered my research by utilizing the Rockfish supercomputing cluster housed at the Advanced Research Computing Facility at Johns Hopkins University. Before working with SCEC, I had no prior experience with high-performance computing. Fall research compared low-resolution MacBook Pro simulations to both low- and high-resolution Rockfish simulations and explored the overall performance of the ARCH Rockfish supercomputing cluster with the SW4 software. With just a portion of our CPU allocation, we were able to compute a non-ergodic set of 11 Wellington shaking scenarios valid from 0.2 to 1.5 Hz. These high-resolution scenarios will provide the city with basin-amplification maps and spectra and will hopefully provide a beneficial starting point for subsequent seismology research that may choose to utilize high-performance computing. For this leg of research, I chose to write a 6-page technical short-paper and submitted for potential publication and presentation at a computational-science conference.

The GNS Science Research Institute.

In addition to the professional and research development training, SCEC also provides the opportunity for interns to visit their mentor's institution during the summer. In January of 2023, I traveled to Wellington to work with our two coauthors. I spent one week with Dr. Tim Stern, a Professor of Geophysics at Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) and Dr. Aasha Pancha, Geophysical Ground Investigation Manager at Aurecon, and Visiting Research Associate at VUW. During my visit, I presented a research seminar to a group of graduate students and faculty at the university and I also had the opportunity to explore the GNS Science Research Institute. While at GNS Science, I met with several researchers, shared my research, and had motivating and informative conversations. 

As my time with SCEC was nearing a close, my trip to Wellington drove home all of the progress I had made as both a student and blooming computer scientist. Before working with SCEC, I had minimal experience with research and no experience in knowing what it takes to be a scientist. Through SCEC, I have learned invaluable lessons which will undoubtedly aid in preparing me for future upper-division courses, as well as my future working in industry. Almost one year after my start with SCEC, I was admitted to one of the most prestigious baccalaureate computer science programs in the United States, the University of California, Irvine. All of my hard work has paid off and I am grateful to SCEC for aiding in getting me where I am today. SCEC's trust, guidance, support and generosity has sculpted me into the scientist I always dreamt I could be. The sky’s the limit! 

About the Author

Morgan O. Newton is a current computer science student at Santa Monica College and a SCEC SOURCES 2022 Intern. Her current research focuses on seismological modeling of sedimentary basins. Morgan is heading into her third year at Santa Monica College and has plans to transfer in 2023 to complete her bachelor's degree in Computer Science. She is very interested in pursuing graduate program opportunities.