A Year Ago Tomorrow: Thoughts from AGU

All of this science talk made me think about how much my situation had changed in the past year.

I was busy a year ago. It was simultaneously my senior year of high school and my sophomore year of college, and I was just finishing the fall quarter.  My applications were mostly finished for colleges and I was ready for a holiday season working retail. A deadline for the Polaris Project’s application was looming. My interests lined up perfectly with Polaris, and my classes did too. But I wasn’t part of a partner university, and I’d never actually met anyone from Polaris. Would they really invest in a kid from a community college? A long shot for sure; I wasn’t even sure if the application was worth doing. A movie pushed me over the edge.

Tomorrow marks one year since I watched James Balog’s “Chasing Ice.”

If you haven’t watched it, please do. Chasing Ice shows the retreating glaciers in unprecedented time lapse photography, and follows the prodigious efforts Balog and his team went through to acquire that footage.

I couldn’t wait any longer to enter the scientific arena. I sent in an application and, inspired by Chasing Ice, I included a video.

These three worked closely together on the Y4 channel.

Craig, Karin, and Peter together make the “Stream Dream Team”


It’s still hard for me to believe I actually presented my Polaris findings here at AGU. In a year, I went from the pre-application process to the inside circle of arctic system science, and every step managed to surprise me. There’s a remarkable comradery between different disciplines that I’ve found in arctic systems science. My poster drew commentary from conventioneers with backgrounds ranging from a Japanese geologist to an isotope specialist from UC Irving. They gave me new ideas on how to continue my research, and a fresh perspective on my current results.

When I wasn’t presenting, I was looking over other posters or attending talks. It’s hard to keep everything straight with so much new information. I learned about new methods for charting glaciers, different magnitudes of forest fires and their carbon footprints, and a method to better account for methane flux in the tundra just to scratch the surface.

For the past few days, I’ve been utterly immersed in arctic systems science: the people, the experiments, the ideas… and a year ago I wasn’t even sure if I would apply to Polaris.

Maybe I should attend some of the physics lectures to learn if I can travel back in time, just to tell the year-ago me that I’ll make the right choice.


Read the blog "Underground" to learn about the origins of Han's research.

Peter Han with his AGU Poster