NCED-sponsored student meets President Obama

A Minnesota high school student, sponsored by the University of Minnesota's National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics (NCED), an NSF Science and Technology Center in partnership with the College of Science and Engineering, had the opportunity to meet President Barack Obama at the White House Science Fair, held Oct. 18.

Courtney Jackson, a senior from Cloquet High School in Cloquet, Minn., was among a number of other bright young scientists nationwide who gathered in Washington D.C. to share their winning science projects with the President, which ranged from breakthrough basic research to new inventions. Jackson attended the fair based on recommendation by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). She has attended the AISES national science fair over the past four years, and each year has won one of the top Grand Awards at the event.

The White House Science Fair fulfills a commitment the President made at the launch of his Educate to Innovate campaign in November 2009 to move American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement over the next decade. NCED's sponsorship of Jackson supports the College of Science and Engineering's outreach efforts to encourage careers in the Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

Jackson has participated in science fairs offered by gidakiimanaaniwigamig, a summer camp and after-school program developed by NCED since the seventh grade. She has also attended the National AISES Science Fair, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and the American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting through NCED sponsorship.

Since the ninth grade, Jackson has been mentored in the advanced study and mapping of the planet Venus by Vickie Hansen, a professor of geology, at the University of Minnesota Duluth. In 2009, Jackson attended the 57th NE MN Regional Science Fair held at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where she advanced to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with more than 1,600 students from over 50 countries competing for over $7 million dollars in scholarships and prizes.

Currently Jackson is working with Professor Hansen to use Magellan radar data to map an area of Venus' surface never mapped before. She is also working with Professor Hansen to learn to draw map cross to further chart the geologic processes acting on Venus' surface millions of years ago.

Among other awards, Jackson received the Association for Women in Geoscientist Award and the Society for Exploration in Geophysics Award. For two years in a row, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) selected her project at the National American Indian Fair for the top award. Her research papers also have been presented at three Junior Academy of Science Tri-state Symposiums.

Jackson's research has been mentioned in the 2008 professional publication TLE The Leading Edge: The Society of Exploration Geophysicists. She has a published article, titled "Mapping Venus," in a 2008 edition of the journal John Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth: Imagine Big Ideas for Bright Minds.