Water World

Blaize Denfeld ’10, M.S. ’11
Major: Environmental Science; M.S. in GIS
Ph.D. student in limnology, Uppsala University, Sweden

“The only consistency to my day is that I bike to and from work and have Fika (Swedish coffee break in the morning and afternoon); everything else in between changes depending on the day,” says Blaize Denfeld, who is pursuing a Ph.D. in limnology — the study of freshwater — at Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden.

That means Denfeld has the freedom to plan her research and schedule, making her job, she says, “very multidimensional.”

She begins each project by surveying applicable literature, develops and reviews a field plan, and then she’s off to a lake in the boreal forest of Sweden to drill through the ice and collect water samples. Because her research involves assessing the spatial and temporal trends in the water during ice cover, she has to drill many holes and visit the lake at least once a month. “Sampling in the winter is cold and limited due to light, so it needs to be efficiently planned,” she notes.

Finally, Denfeld measures the different parameters of the sampled water in the lab and analyzes the data, hoping to show results that she can write about and present. She is scheduled to present her research at the International Polar Year conference in Montreal in April 2012.

“Many people think scientists wear white coats and sit alone in the lab or office all day,” says Denfeld. “I can attest this is not the case; in fact, most of my time is spent collaborating with peers and exchanging ideas.” Her days often involve workshops with other scientists and helping teach in labs and classes.

“I realized I enjoyed scientific research during my undergraduate experience at Clark on the Polaris Project. It gave me the opportunity to spend the summer in Northeast Siberia conducting field work. That opened my eyes to scientific inquiry in a whole different perspective than the classroom,” she recalls.

Denfeld returned to Siberia as a student assistant, where she added project management and group leadership to her skill set. “That experience with Polaris sealed the deal for me. I knew I wanted to pursue a Ph.D.”

Denfeld enjoys the scientist’s life. “I have already had the opportunity to meet and discuss my ideas with science ‘celebrities’ in my field from all over the world,” she says.