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Effective science communications

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Profile photo of Hywot Ayana smiling under the arches in Main Quad
(Photo courtesy of Hywot Ayana)

Hywot Ayana

BS ‘25
Civil Engineering

August 11, 2023

Hywot Ayana, ‘25, knew for a while that she wanted to be an engineer. Initially driven by her love of math and physics, she ultimately decided to pursue civil engineering because of its large-scale impact.

“How powerful the work of civil engineers can be in fighting climate change and changing how we live through the things we build is really interesting to me,” Ayana said.

Ayana got her first exposure to research through the Civil and Environmental Engineering Summer Undergraduate Research Program. Mentored by Professor Peter Kitanidis, she worked on a literature review about albedo, or the amount of light reflectivity, of snow and ice on the planet. Usually, the bright surfaces of snow and ice help regulate global temperatures by reflecting some of the sun’s light back into space. However, as increased planetary warming melts these surfaces away, more heat from the sun is absorbed – leading to more melting ice, and in turn creating a positive feedback loop.

Ayana recognized the value of her scientific communications skills in spreading awareness about this important issue. Regardless of how strong the research is, “if you don’t have a way of telling people about it, what impact does it actually have?”

Although at first intimidated to endeavor into research, Ayana was surprised by the amount of mentorship and guidance she received from Professor Kitanidis. “His openness to working with me as long as I was excited to learn about this has been really defining for this experience.”

She also enjoyed the change in pace that the summer program offered from the school year. Rather than following requirements or deadlines, she was able to focus on creating impactful work, reaching a broader audience through effective communications.