The beauty of Antarctica
beckons, but graduates passion is teaching
icebergs and snow gave Emily Yam a new appreciation for beauty.
You see subtle colors within the white, different shades.
By Lee Graves
its subzero temperatures, relentlessly white landscape and daunting
isolation, Antarctica is not high on the list of summer destinations.
Emily Yam is chafing to get there for her second visit
certain type of person gets addicted to Antarctica, and I think
Im one, she said.
fifth-year student who will graduate May 19 with a bachelor of
arts degree in biology and a masters in teaching from the
Curry School of Education, Yam was both humbled and dazzled by
her 40 days at the bottom of the world last summer.
was the youngest person among nearly 50 researchers aboard the
research vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer on an expedition coordinated
by a group called Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics.
temperatures were numbing, to be sure. The coldest I felt
was minus 60 degrees Celsius, which is about minus 76 Fahrenheit.
That included the wind chill factor. I went right back inside,
she said and chuckled.
once did she suffer from the cold. Rubber gloves she wore one
day while hauling in nets allowed moisture to get against her
hands and freeze. The next day was so painful I couldnt
pain was overshadowed by Antarcticas beauty.
by Kerri Scolardi
Yam spent last summer in Antarctica doing NSF-funded research
on board an ice-breaker ship. Here, she dons a "mustang
suit" while on board the ship doing a 2 a.m. net towing
to collect data specimens. Her eyelashes froze from the
exposure to the frigid temperatures, which ranged from -60
degrees C to the more typical -20 to -40 degrees C.
just an amazing place. Extreme is such a small word for it. Everything
is so extreme, and its so pristine, she said.
the white upon white of snow and ice yielded hidden gems. Everything
is white, but its not white. You see subtle colors within
the white, different shades. Its so beautiful.
isolation caused a few wrinkles brief spasms of being homesick,
mild cravings for something other than ships food
but it heightened her awareness of things, from daily details
to life in general.
just appreciate everything, Yam said. I felt very
aware of everything.
mission focused on studying the distribution and survival of Antarctic
krill, and its availability as a food source to other animals
such as seals, penguins and whales.
credits good luck with landing a berth on the Palmer. She had
worked several seasonal stints at the National Science Foundation
in Arlington, and during the summer of 2000, she used her breaks
to drop in on the polar research group.
always been interested in polar research, she said. She
became friends with one of the scientists, and when that person
needed a graduate student for the summer trip, Yam got the nod.
much as she loves Antarctica, Yam loves teaching more. Her eyes
light up when she talks about being a teaching assistant in a
vertebrate zoology lab at the University. And her experience student-teaching
at Potomac Falls High School in Loudoun County was rewarding,
both for her and for teachers there.
of Currys initiatives is its technology transfer program
introducing teachers to computer technology that can help
improve student learning.
we attempt to do is use student-teaching as a vehicle for technology
integration in the schools by modeling technology use, just as
they would provide the pedagogical model, she said.
schools effort seems to be paying off, said Randy Bell,
assistant professor in science and technology education at the
Curry School and Yams adviser. In addition, teachers who
have done unusual research, such as in Antarctica, enter the classroom
with greater credibility and quickly capture students interest.
Emily is kind of the epitome of that kind of teacher coming
into the picture, Bell said. She is one example, and
we have others with experiences just as unique and as interesting
as hers. Shes exceptional, and she has a lot of exceptional
classmates as well.
others, Yam has made helping others a priority since coming to
U.Va. from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
in Northern Virginia. She has been a peer mentor and volunteer
in numerous programs.
although she isnt sure what shell do after she returns
from Antarctica in September, her optimism is infectious. At
this point, Im up for doing anything, she said. I
just want to be open to possibilities.
her interests and background, dont be surprised if those
possibilities focus on teaching. She has a genuine passion for
think that once you have the bug, you end up being a teacher,
even in everyday life.