Category Archives: Uncategorized

Outdoor Radio Show with Tim Hughes

Check out the Radio Show with Tim Hughes!  HERE  (about 2/3 of the way through this link)



Electrical Engineering — Not Your Average Desk Job

Glenn Roy Nashaknik (Bear Guard), Dr. Cindy Furse (Professor of Electrical Engineering), David Lubbers (Electrical Engineering student)

Ok, so when I decided to be an electrical engineer, I didn’t exactly think, ‘Wow, I think I want to go on a Polar Science Expedition, I guess I’ll be an electrical engineer.’  I confess, ‘Adventure’ and ‘Engineering’ didn’t really link up in my mind. I wanted to make a difference in the world, and make it a better place.  But sometimes, to make that difference, you really do have to go to the ends of the earth.  And that is what we have done.

In November 2010, we went to Antarctica to measure the electrical properties of southern polar sea ice.  Our team consisted of Dr.Ken Golden (Professor of Math), Dr. Joyce Lin (postdoc in Math), Dr. Cindy Furse (Professor of Electrical Engineering) and David Lubbers (undergrad in electrical engineering).  We camped on the ice for nearly 2 1/2 weeks, in a field camp with scientists from New Zealand and Germany.    In May 2011, we went to the Arctic to measure the electrical properties of northern polar sea ice.  We worked with scientists from University of Alaska, Fairbanks.  Here we needed a polar bear guard (I guess a penguin guard was not needed in Antarctica, because penguins don’t eat people.).  What an adventure this year has been!  I’ve always found engineering exciting, fascinating, and never ever boring … but I hadn’t exactly planned on this much adventure. Wow!  Electrical Engineering is definitely NOT your average desk job!

While we were in Barrow, Alaska, we met another really cool (and famous) electrical engineer.  Fran Tate got her degree from the University of Washington in 1960.  She was one of 3 women in the entire college of 1500 men.  She worked in the oil and gas industry, and her company needed engineers in Barrow, Kenya, and Greece.  She chose Barrow, when it was quite a wild and wooley outpost.  She loved it.  When her job finished, and she was offered the chance to go to Anchorage instead, she chose to stay, and dug out her entrepreneurial spirit.  She started Pepe’s Mexican restaurant, which as far as I can tell is about the furthest Mexican restaurant from Mexico that you can find, and she also started a water delivery and sewage pick up system (that’s about as complete a food life cycle as you can come up with).  Just proof, once again, that electrical engineers really do make the world go ’round’.

THREE electrical engineers. David Lubbers (University of Utah 2011), Fran Tate (University of Washington 1960), Cindy Furse (University of Utah 1994). Fran is the proprieter-ess of Pepe's Mexican Restaurant in Barrow, Alaska. She has another friend who was also a (woman) electrical engineer who is now 94.

More about Fran:,9171,926589-1,00.html

Interviews with Fran Tate

Polar Bear Tracks

Yesterday was another very interesting day of testing on the ice.  We testing on ‘multiyear’ ice which means it has been partially melted and then refrozen, and the area has not been completed thawed in the past few years at least.  This generally means that the salty brine has drained away leaving nearly pure water ice.  The ice was much more resistive (doesn’t conduct electricity) than the first year sea ice we were previously measuring, often so resistive that it was beyond the range of our meter (effectively an ‘open circuit’ or a great insulator).  This was really interesting to see the different kinds of ice.

This multi-year ice was only a short distance (less than a mile) from our original site, but it was very different in appearance.  There were several small ridges of ice, from the freeze-thaw and pressure cycles, and with the snow on top of them, it was kind of like a frozen fairy land.

Ice ridges are eerily beautiful

Our original test site seemed nearly devoid of animals.  But just a short distance away at this site, we saw several animals.  First, there were several large flocks of King Eiders (like 200-300 birds) .  They flew overhead with a great whirring sound.  We also saw one that was dead in the snow, a brightly colored bird the size of a typical duck.  We also saw some snow buntings, and we heard tundra swans but couldn’t see them in the deep fog.

David saw something moving in the snow, and we think it was an arctic fox.

Coming back, Glen Roy noticed polar bear tracks.  He had been watching out for them all day.  Because of the fog, he had to watch more closely, since he wouldn’t be able to see them at a great distance.  The tracks were from the day before, and we hadn’t noticed them on the way in.  He thinks they were from a young female, since the front tracks were noticeably smaller than the back tracks.  These tracks were not very far from where we had been measuring the day before, but would have been out of sight.  We saw tracks our first day here too, and we saw bears in the far distance also.

Polar Bear tracks

Polar Bear tracks heading off in the distance.

Meet Glen Roy, our bear guard.  I think he has one of the coolest, most unusual jobs I’ve ever heard of!  He is officially certified as a mammal hazer — polar bears.

Glenn Roy Nashaknik, Bear Guard

Inspiring Teaching Conference

The University of Utah MUSE (My University Signature Experience) project did an inspiring teaching conference.  Here are David  and >I< talking about our experiences.  And, another of my great seniors, Jon Davies, talking about his USET teaching experience.

Degrees to NoWhere

‘Degrees to nowhere’ taken literally to the middle of nowhere.
UU Daily Chronicle

Mrs. Corlett’s Kindergarten in the News

Antarctica Math

Antarctica's Frozen Sea

Sea ice reflecting beautifully in the evening sun. This is where we set up our tent. Yep, it sure was slippery!

HI, I’m Cindy Furse, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Utah. Electrical engineers like me use electricity to invent things or discover things that can change the world. Four of us from the U are setting out on an Antarctic Expedition Nov 15 to measure the electrical properties of sea ice to find out more about how ice is controlled by the climate when it is produced. Later, we may be able to use that information to better understand the long term climate changes and how they have affected the world’s ice packs.
There is a lot to learn about ice. Here are some different kinds of ice (some?! LOTS of different kinds of ice):
We are most interested in the brine in ice. As sea water freezes, brine is rejected by the solidification process and there is a layer of highly concentrated brine at the interface, which has a corrugated platelet structure. As these platelets grow further, this extra salty water is trapped between the platelets in the form of submillimeter scale inclusions. These inclusions are generally tubular, because of gravity pulling the brine down. You can see some microscopic pictures of sea ice and its brine inclusions here:
Brine is very salty, and therefore highly conductive (it can conduct current, sort of like a wire can). In the direction of the long inclusions (vertically), we expect the ice to be more conductive (carry more current) than in the horizontal direction. But we don’t know for sure. And we don’t know how much difference there will be between the horizontal and vertical conductivity of the ice. When the properties are different in different directions, we say the ice is ‘anisotropic’. And that is what we are out to measure.
Four of us from the U are headed to Antarctica, where we will meet up with other teams from around the world.
Me: Cindy Furse – Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Ken Golden – Professor of Math
David Lubbers – an undergraduate electrical engineering student, doing his senior project on sea ice measurements
Joyce Lin – postdoctoral researcher in Math
We’ll give you more introduction to each of us in upcoming blogs.
But for now, I’d like to introduce you to another important part of our Antarctic Math-pedition. To make important discoveries, engineers and scientists use MATH! We like math, we use math, we need math, and we want to share the fun of discovering, inventing, and experimenting with math and engineering. So here is an invitation to teachers and students (and anybody else!) … come to Antarctica ‘with’ us. We will be talking about preparations for our upcoming adventure, and the math and science we will be using, in this blog over the next few weeks.
So, the question of the day is:
Tell us what (math topic) you are studying in your class, if you are a teacher or a student, and what grade level you are in. We will try to find examples of where we use that type of math in Antarctica. Brrrrry Cold Math!
—Dr. Cindy Furse

This blog was first posted on the University of Utah blog site: