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Jennifer Mercer, a class of 1997 environmental physical science graduate from BHSU, is shown launching a balloon from the McMurdo Station in Antarctica to measure ozone concentration and aerosol particles. Ann Curry from NBC’s Today show interviewed Mercer about the hole in the ozone layer, women in science, and working in Antarctica. Mercer is currently a research scientist in the Atmospheric Science Department at the University of Wyoming.

Photo by Steve Dobbs of Raytheon Polar Services

Jennifer Mercer, a class of 1997 environmental physical science graduate from Black Hills State University, recently appeared on the “Today” show to discuss her atmospheric research at Antarctica. 

A recipient of the 2003 Young Alumni Achievement Award, Mercer is currently a research scientist in the Atmospheric Science Department at the University of Wyoming.  Mercer’s research regularly includes releasing balloons from the McMurdo Station in Antarctica to measure ozone concentration and aerosol particles.

Ann Curry interviewed Mercer about the hole in the ozone layer, women in science, and working in Antarctica. View the video at: http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-US&brand=msnbc&vid=7071f9b8-ca7e-4e5b-96b6-a174ee6fe6fe.

This segment is part of an NBC report “Ends of the Earth.”  According to the NBC website, this report is a historic broadcast taking an unprecedented look at the planet Earth.

Mercer, who earned an environmental physical science degree at BHSU, was presented with the Young Alumni Achievement Award in 2003. She is currently a research scientist in the Atmospheric Science Department at the University of Wyoming. The research team regularly launches balloons from McMurdo Station in Antarctica that carry instruments up to approximately 100,000 feet in the stratosphere while measuring ozone concentration and aerosol particles that form polar stratospheric clouds.

This is one of many adventures Mercer has undertaken as a researcher. Her work has taken her to many far away sites including Hawaii and the South China Sea. She once spent a month on a French vessel collecting ocean sediment along the western Pacific margin (in the areas of Taiwan, Japan, China and Russia).

Mercer said she always enjoyed science classes as an elementary student and became especially interested in geology in the eighth grade; however, she started BHSU with plans for a journalism major.

“It was during the spring of my freshman year when I realized that I should really become a scientist,” Mercer said. After taking a physical geology class, she changed her major and the course of her life.

“I’ve always felt that my education at BHSU was an integral part of my success.  I had professors in the arts and sciences who were phenomenal in the classroom and supportive of students’ interests.  Faculty at BHSU are among the best professors I’ve seen anywhere. They far surpass the quality of my Ivy League professors in graduate school,” Mercer said.

Mercer also credits the university for providing exceptional research opportunities to undergraduate students. “One of the best things about BHSU is that there is a lot of opportunity for students to get involved in research and hands-on experience. These types of experiences are usually given to graduate students at larger schools, so students from BHSU have a leg up on research experience by the time they graduate,” Mercer said.

As Mercer looks back on her educational experience she encourages other students to explore their options, make the most of their experiences and not limit themselves.

“Take every opportunity you have to expand your experiences in life. You’ll be amazed at the times when some past experience comes in handy and gives you an advantage,” Mercer said.