EP‘IK earth science program draws student with lifelong love of science

As a Hawai‘i high school student with a life-long passion for science, Kimberly Martin was a perfect fit for the EP‘IK Summer Program at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. EP‘IK, which is short for Earth-Planets-ʻIke-Kuleana, offers opportunities for high school students in Hawai‘i to gain exposure to Earth and planetary science in preparation for a successful college experience.

Martin, who is from O‘ahu, wanted to be a scientist for as long as she can remember and developed an interest in earth and ocean sciences in middle school. In her junior year of high school, she attended an open house at the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), learned about the Earth Sciences degree programs for undergraduates and met professor Bridget Smith-Konter, who would later welcome Martin into the summer 2020 EP‘IK Summer program. 

“I learned about so many research opportunities here at UH and I was really interested in being involved in that,” said Martin, who is now an honors student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the UH Mānoa Earth Sciences Department. “Not only do I love earth science, but also ocean science. Being at a university that does exciting research in both areas means I have the opportunity to be a part of that while I’m an undergraduate student.”

Improving predictions of volcanic eruptions

Martin is working with Smith-Konter through the program ERTH Undergraduate Research Opportunities Cohort (ERTH-U-ROC) and learning to make maps that show how Earth’s crust deformed during the 2018 Kīlauea volcanic eruption. As a next step, Martin and Smith-Konter will rely on near-real time satellite data so the maps they make show current deformation progress. Such maps could be used as a way to inform the community about seismic and volcanic hazards in near-real-time.

“I find all of this work fascinating,” said Martin. “One particularly interesting thing is learning the coding language. I’ve never had any experience doing this before so it’s all very new and quite difficult. The first time I was successful, I was so proud of myself!”

“The Earth Sciences Department is very excited to launch (this spring semester )the ERTH-U-ROC program and help our undergraduate students get more involved in research in Hawaiʻi,” said Smith-Konter, who Martin complimented as “an excellent mentor.” “It has been a real pleasure to work with Kimberly this semester, and although we are just getting started and tackling some rather complicated computational tasks for a beginner, Kimberly and her research teammate (Kiriana Anderson) have embraced these challenges with a refreshing enthusiasm and spirit.  I can’t wait to see Kimberly and the rest of our ERTH-U-ROCers develop their research skillset over the upcoming semesters and years – they all have such bright futures ahead of them.”

Martin anticipates graduating in Spring 2025. And for the next few years, she is open to a variety of research experiences in hopes of determining which field to pursue in graduate school.

“I love the idea of becoming a geologic oceanographer and working on a research vessel, perhaps involving bathymetry or volcanoes – something to do with plate tectonics,” said Martin. “At this point, I’ve got time to work out specifics.”

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