Meet the NSF GRFP recipients – Elizabeth Smith
A developing research scientist and a UD plant and soil sciences doctoral student, Elizabeth Smith is proud to say she wants to be a “dirt doctor.” Smith’s research focuses on quantifying soil characteristics using digital soil mapping principles and machine learning techniques. Specifically, she is quantifying the spatial distribution of soil nitrogen across the conterminous United States and providing associated uncertainties of the model.
“I wish to learn the current best practices for accessing and utilizing big data from domestic and international ecological networks specific to biogeochemical cycling, storage and transport of nutrients,” said Smith, who earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science at Spelman College. “With such knowledge, it is my endeavor to develop and promote best practices in the coming decades by understanding emergent patterns in biogeochemical cycles and their relationships with ecosystems through predictive modeling.”
Smith is advised by UD’s Rodrigo Vargas, associate professor of ecosystem ecology and environmental change. She said Vargas has been integral to her success by offering constructive and strategic evaluations on her work progression, sharing career advice, and actively seeking opportunities external to the University for her to explore her research through the lens of others in the field. She is also appreciative of the support of her fellow graduate students and postdocs in the department.
Smith’s career plans include pursuing research that advances the knowledge base of ecological sciences and process-based modeling while also serving as a mentor to young scientists. She hopes to realize these goals as a leading researcher and subject matter expert in a national laboratory or with a federal agency.
“Ultimately, I want to help bridge the gap between science and policy by using dating mining to synthesize large datasets into readable findings for use in policy making consistent with a sustainable environment promoting health equity and social justice,” said Smith.