This summer we’re introducing interns in the RESESS, Geo-Launchpad, and USIP programs to shine a spotlight on the projects they are completing throughout these 11-week internships and on their interests in geoscience.

Cassie Hanagan is a PhD student at the University of Arizona, where she is studying geophysics. Cassie has always been an outdoors enthusiast and appreciated the environments that she grew up in. Before entering her undergraduate program in her hometown at Pennsylvania State University, she discovered the field of geoscience through a Google search for outdoor careers. With a great Earth and Mineral Science department at Penn State, Cassie decided that geoscience was for her and earned her bachelor’s degree. She also had always enjoyed problem-solving and math, and was particularly interested in active tectonic processes. Cassie began working with an advisor who specialized in geodesy and geophysics, leading her towards earning a PhD in geophysics and cultivating an interest in earthquake processes for her graduate studies.

This is Cassie’s second year as a USIP intern. She applied to the program last year after hearing about how much one of the other graduate students at the University of Arizona enjoyed her experiences with UNAVCO. Last year, Cassie worked with UNAVCO’s Dave Mencin and Kathleen Hodgkinson. With the 2020 program entirely remote, Cassie hoped to have the opportunity to intern again with some in-person components. She was able to come to Boulder for the last few weeks of her internship this year, so that she could work in the UNAVCO office in-person.

UNAVCO’s Dave Mencin, Christine Puskas, and Brooks Mershon are supervising Cassie this summer. Cassie is updating and revising community tools for calculating the geoid height and viewing GPS station velocities in different global reference frames. These tools were both originally developed by UNAVCO years ago, so Cassie is updating and rebuilding them on a new platform called “Observable”.

Initially, Cassie researched to understand the specifics about what the tool was calculating, how the calculations were completed, and the applications of the tools. This level of conceptual understanding and familiarity with external resources was essential as Cassie wrote descriptions for the use of the tools to guide educators, students, and researchers, and linked to additional resources for further reading. She sifted through the original code written for the tools to determine the ideal way to bring the functionality and accessibility of these resources to the new platform. Finally, Cassie is learning Javascript so that she could help code the revised tools for the “Observable” platform.

In addition to becoming more familiar with coding in Javascript, Cassie has also learned how to better work in a team. When working with Brooks, she had the opportunity to bring her geoscientific expertise to the table, whereas Brooks taught her about coding in Javascript and working with the “Observable” platform. This project was the first time that she was constantly working with someone else and their collaboration was able to bring revised drafts of these tools to life in only a few weeks.


  1. What has been your favorite part of the USIP program so far?

I really appreciate UNAVCO and how they’re focused on the students’ well-being and focused on having projects that are beneficial to the student. It’s about learning more so than [a job]. I mean, it is a job, but it’s not. The pressure is more to learn than it is a high stress situation and I think, as a consequence of that, we’ll probably do better work.

  1. Do you feel like you’ve developed mentorships with Dave Mencin, Christine Puskas, and Brooks Mershon? What have you gained from these mentorships?

Yes, I feel like I’ve learned a lot from both Christine and Brooks. Christine and Brooks are both super responsive and super helpful. Dave and Kathleen, I can say last year were so completely helpful. Even in my research world as well, they’re a little more aligned with what I do as a student… I think I’ll keep in touch as [Kathleen and I] signed off the last time we met, she was like, “Let me know when you defend!” 

  1. How does this internship fit into your future goals or help you achieve them?

I think the biggest thing for me is networking. I love meeting all these people who are always interested in Earth sciences and hearing other people’s paths. I love the Career Circles and listening to people talk about how they got to where they are, because all the paths are so different.

Cassie still has 2-3 years left to complete her PhD, but afterwards, she’s hoping to maintain both research and fieldwork components in her career! This summer, Cassie is looking forward to going back to visit State College for a wedding, camping, and hiking before school starts back up in the fall.

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