Amanda Vanegas Receives the First Year Student Award for Outstanding Research

Brandon Milardo | EAPS News
Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Her work examined the growth and branching of stream networks.

EAPS congratulates first year student Amanda Vanegas for receiving the First Year Student Award for research by the Office of the Vice Chancellor. The prize recognizes a high level of research, in addition to a willingness to lead and help others to understand scientific concepts.

Vanegas collaborated with EAPS Professor of Geophysics Daniel Rothman on a project that studied the creation of river networks, working with data to improve the model that the Rothman group uses for their research. Prior to coming to MIT, Vanegas was primarily focused on math and physics. It wasn’t until speaking with Rothman after a lecture about water flows on Mars that she was invited to apply her interests to real-world problems. “After the talk, I originally asked if he had advice for an interesting class next semester,” said Vanegas. “He ended up asking me if I wanted to participate in a project, so I said ‘sure.’” She spent her first semester studying complex analysis and Python before applying it to the Rothman group’s models.

According to Rothman, Vanegas’s work shows promise. “Amanda's project seeks to identify the smallest characteristic scale that exists in stream networks incised by groundwater,” he said. “Her work has required that she devise and apply new mathematical techniques for the analysis of topographic contours. Her preliminary results are quite promising, and I feel fortunate to have her working in my group.”

Originally from Maracaibo, Venezuela, Vanegas will be spending her summer in Portugal, working at an internship she found through the help of MISTI. When she returns to MIT for the academic year, Vanegas plans to declare majors in Course 18 and Course 12. Additionally, she will continue working with the Rothman group for at least one more semester.

The First Year Award recipients, their advisors, and associate advisors were recognized for their excellence on May 16th. Additionally, at the event, EAPS Doherty Assistant Professor in Ocean Utilization Andrew Babbin received the Outstanding Rookie Advisor Award.

Story Image: View over Mackenzie Delta from Cessna 172 - En route from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk - Northwest Territories, Canada (Credit: Adam Jones, Ph.D.)