Lehigh University
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Shenk ’08 earns coveted spot in REU program

Caitlin Shenk ’08, a Lehigh student with a double major in journalism/science and environmental writing and environmental studies, was recently selected as one of only 10 students to attend the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program for social science disaster training at the University of Delaware.

The program is sponsored by the National Science Foundation at the university’s Disaster Research Center (DRC).

As part of the program, Shenk will join three students from the University of Delaware and six students from other colleges at the nine-week research training institute, which is held to provide students with the necessary academic background and relevant research experiences to prepare them for independent scholarship.

“Caitlin’s selection for this summer program recognizes her intellectual ability, curiosity and drive,” says Sharon M. Friedman, professor of journalism and communication. “This national program offers her a great opportunity to merge her interests in environmental writing and environmental studies, and learn about social science aspects of disasters and hazards.”

By using real-life scenarios such as Hurricane Katrina disaster, the REU trainees will work with leading scholars and researchers on state-of-the-art projects focusing on such issues as disaster mitigation, search and rescue, preparedness, response and recovery, warnings and technology, and disaster vulnerability and resilience.

Shenk’s work with the DRC will continue at Lehigh when she returns in fall 2006, according to Michelle Moses of the DRC.

“She’ll begin her research project over the summer, and complete a research proposal that will include a research design,” says Moses. “She’ll also be expected to display some preliminary results before leaving the Center.”

As part of the training process, Moses says that Shenk will work closely with a mentor from the University of Delaware to develop research on a selected topic.

Recognizing that undergraduates are rarely afforded an opportunity to develop independent research in such a pressing field, Shenk says that she is both honored and excited to be selected for the program.

“It’s a great opportunity,” she says.

Adds Friedman: “Working on undergraduate research on disasters will be both exciting and challenging for her. I’m sure she’ll have a great summer and learn a great deal that will be useful for her in the future.”

--Liz Danzig

Posted on Monday, May 15, 2006

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