Paleena, wearing glasses and a brown and purple floral dress with a sunset behind her.
Paleena, wearing glasses and a brown and purple floral dress with a sunset behind her.

Across Fault Lines

Paleena  Amy

Class of 2023 • Salisbury, Maryland
While Paleena Amy ‘23 may not be making waves in the literal sense, she is busy tracking them. More specifically, she’s busy tracking seismic waves in the lower mantle as part of a summer research internship at Yale University.


When Paleena first heard about the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), she began applying to partner schools such as Stanford, Brown, and Yale – eventually landing a much coveted spot at the latter. Faced with a tough choice between the SURF program and an internship at NASA, Paleena took a leap in a new direction and was placed in the Earth and Planetary Science department at Yale, participating in seismology research. 

A competitive, eight week program, SURF partners with schools across the nation, to bring the experience and insights of graduate-level research to undergraduate students, with the goal of increasing their academic confidence and educating participants on potential careers following the completion of a PhD program. 

Under the guidance of a PhD candidate, Paleena is testing a new method created to analyze the different alignments and polarizations, otherwise known as anisotropy, within the lower mantle.

“The waves of an earthquake will go all over the earth and will bounce off different boundaries of the earth, like the lower mantle and the inner core. We can then pick the earthquake waves up…and can tell through how the wave changes what’s in the mantle specifically. The lower mantle is an area that hasn’t really been explored much. They know that the anisotropy is happening in the upper mantle, but not a lot is known about the lower region.”

Focusing her research on stations across Alaska, Paleena’s applying skills and topics she’s learned in her physics classes at WC to her current project. 

“Every physics class I take now has a coding component,  and I’ve learned how to use it a bit more. It’s becoming a really big part of physics. There’s a specific seismology [coding] package that has been created for analyzing data and seismic waves – I can use this program to analyze the parameters of the waves and if they’re good, bad, or average.”

While her time at Yale may be winding down, Paleena’s work is far from done. As the interns work through their data, they’re also working out interesting, complex issues that come with using new methods. 

“We’ve kind of been in a pickle, [we] need better data, and the data I currently have has been measured from the wrong distance.”

Though the work can be challenging, Paleena is optimistic, and grateful for the experience she’s gained from the internship. Her time spent working on graduate-level research has reaffirmed her choice to attend graduate school, where she hopes to study Climate Engineering. For now though, Paleena has plans to research the viability of Enhanced Silicate Weathering as a carbon sequestration tactic for her senior capstone experience.

Paleena's Four Year Plan

Year 1

Favorite ClassENV 141 - Atmosphere, Ocean, and the Environment

During her first year, Paleena's favorite class was ENV 141 with Professor Karl Kehm. "Despite moving online for COVID during this class, I loved this class! It was helpful in understanding many earth processes and helped me realized Earth Science is definitely my interest."

Year 2

Learn by DoingSummer Field Methods

"During COVID, students were not in person to experience any field work. Thanks to Professors Van Meter and Fox, a group was able to take their 9-day summer course focused on learning vital field methods. It helped many of us feel more prepared for our junior year."

Year 3

Internships & ProjectsSURF Program

"This summer, I have been working at Yale University studying lower mantle anisotropy with the Earth and Planetary Science department. This is my first research experience and it has been an awesome couple weeks!"

Year 4

Looking ForwardSCE and Beyond

"For my SCE, I want to explore the viability of Enhanced Silicate Weathering as a carbon sequestration tactic. After WAC, I’d like to study Climate Engineering in graduate school. Outside of academics, I am excited to organize the Spring 2023 Dance Club Concert with the Executive Board and all of our members!"