Surviving the PolarTREC Application Process
As a teacher there is one thing that absolutely terrifies me. Sweat rings. There is nothing worse for a high school teacher than a bunch of students pointing them out.
The application process for PolarTREC introduced me to a whole new kind of sweating. Sweat connected to emotions. I shall never forget them as long as I live. They came from nervous anticipation and excitement and I did not appreciate them one bit.
“We are pleased to inform you your application has made it to the next round.” Armpit apocrine glands activate. That continued on and off for the next few weeks and through many shirts and sweaters. I found myself, heart pounding, in the school bathroom trying to fit under the hand dryer. Then came a phone call from Alaska to inform me that a researcher would like to interview me.
Next day, under the hand dryer again I went, in between teaching and interview prep. Glaciologist, Dr. Sarah Das from Woods Hole Oceanographic was on sabbatical sailing the Caribbean with her family for the year. Our interview would take place in the lobby of a hotel near where she docked. She put me at ease immediately with her calm demeanor and supportive style of questioning. It would be the only relief I had in weeks to come. Students got so used to seeing me under that dryer, they stopped asking.
Finally the call came. I was asked how I was doing and vividly remember thinking to myself I was about to pass out. “We are pleased to inform you that you have been invited to join the research team in Greenland with Dr. Das.” I literally fell on the floor. I can’t remember what my armpits were doing at that moment. I was in outer orbit.