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 Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2005 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Faculty Research Associates Play Key Role
by Jon Leslie, Publications and Creative Services

While they may not grade exams at the end of the semester, faculty research associates play a key role in the scientific pursuits of the more than 80 centers, institutes and laboratories associated with CU-Boulder.

Not to be confused with research assistants—graduate students who support research while completing their degrees—research associates are faculty members who pursue scientific discoveries while providing undergraduate and graduate students a wealth of research opportunities.

"If we did not have the research associates, we would not do the great science we do at this university," said Professor Koni Steffen, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), CU-Boulder's largest research institute with over 200 Ph.Ds. "We depend 100 percent on them and we could not carry on the research we are doing at CU-Boulder without them."

Thomas Hopson, a CIRES research associate, completed his Ph.D. thesis on a flood forecasting application for Bangladesh and now works with Professor Andy Moore of the Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (PAOS) on a mid-range forecasting technique for seasonal weather changes related to El Niño phenomena over the Pacific Ocean.

"I think most people would agree that the most productive members of the university as far as research is concerned are probably the research associates," said Hopson. "As a graduate student you're still trying to develop the tools to do research and as a professor you've got all of these constraints on your time between teaching, advising, faculty meetings and things like proposal writing. I think the research associates are arguably the most productive because we've got the tools and we're focused pretty much exclusively on research."

This ability to focus on research has enabled CU-Boulder research associates to make significant contributions in their fields, most notably illustrated by the recent announcement of JILA Fellow and Senior Research Associate John L. Hall's Nobel Prize in Physics for a precise laser technique to determine the color of the light of atoms and molecules.

"It's inspirational to see that kind of quality research being done here at CU," said Hopson. "For me, I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to be able to work on projects that are both interesting science and at the same time will hopefully be of some benefit to the world."

Hopson's drive to benefit the world also extends beyond the laboratory. He volunteers on behalf of the Shungu Dzevana Trust, an organization that provides foster care for AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe. He first learned of the trust as a CU-Boulder graduate student on a Fulbright Scholarship in 1998. In cooperation with the CU-Boulder Office of Community Relations, he has organized an exhibit about the trust and other global AIDS groups supported by Boulder County citizens at the Boulder Public Library. For more information about the trust, visit Boulder County AIDS Project.

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