Tell us about yourself
I grew up in Vermont, where I was lucky to have the opportunity to explore rivers and mountains and gain an appreciation for landscapes. I received my Bachelor’s degree from Colorado College in 2010 and bounced around a bit between Colorado and Montreal before ending up in Nashville for grad school. Since then, I have been working with David Furbish at Vanderbilt University, where I just finished my PhD. I’m about to leave Nashville for a postdoc position at University of Arizona in Tucson.
What is your research about?
My dissertation focuses on evaluating, demonstrating, and exploring consequences of different mathematical descriptions of hillslope sediment transport. In particular I have focused on a relatively new class of models (nonlocal models) that probabilistically incorporate the distances that sediment particles travel on hillslopes. Work with regard to nonlocal models has been dominantly theoretical, leaving a need to demonstrate it in the field and identify signatures of such a model in the field, which is one motivation for my research.
What excites you about your research?
Quantitative descriptions of a process offer a certain degree of clarity that I find satisfying when achieved. However, one of the challenges of my research is to explore a process in a way that is faithful to the complexity while being sufficiently simple. When we do this effectively, essential characteristics and behaviors emerge. I find that following the mathematics and results to the basic behaviors encourages me in my work.
What broader importance does your research have for society?
The nonlocal models I have been working with contain clear and physically well-defined parameters that relate to specific sediment transport processes. Such clarity in the model allows for us to more accurately understand how sediment transport on hillslopes will respond to changes in climate, hydrology, and ecology. To advance the theory in this way, however, requires more empirical work to refine the models for specific processes.
What inspired you to pursue a career in Earth science?
I was first attracted to Earth sciences because of the field work and mentors that I had in my undergrad. I remember being particularly struck by the ability to go back in time and imagine a previous world. Throughout my courses and research in undergrad, I also was frequently reminded and impressed by how dynamic our world is.
What are you looking to do after you complete your PhD?
I hope to continue working in academia. I have thoroughly enjoyed my research and the little bit of mentoring that I have been able to do during my PhD . I think that continuing on in academia to pursue research, advising, and teaching would be an exciting and rewarding path.
Given unlimited funding and access to resources, what is your dream project that you would pursue?
I have become interested in characterizing the stochasticity of sediment transport and its relationship to inconsistent accumulation rates. With unlimited resources, I would try to characterize how the spatial statistics of sediment transport relate to the temporal statistics of deposition rates. I imagine such work would require a good amount of theory, loads of analytical work to obtain deposition rates at a range timescales, and field work to characterize sediment transport—whoa.
What else do you do? Any hobbies or interests outside of work?
Outside of work, I spend my time sailing, mountain biking or rollerblading (more fun that running). Nashville has been a lovely spot for all of these with a great reservoir 30 minutes away, some pretty nice mountain biking, and great paved trails down near the Cumberland River. Lucky to live in such a place.
If you know of an early career EPSP researcher (PhD student or Postdoc) who deserves to have a spotlight on them, please contact Hima Hassenruck-Gudipati (firstname.lastname@example.org).