STEM Summer Research - Granada Courses

You will earn 6 research credits over 8 weeks, conducting a faculty-supervised, hands-on, directed study research project with results that will culminate in the preparation of a research paper.

You will complete a minimum of 240 hours on research in and out of the laboratory.

To prepare for this experience you will speak with your research mentor before arriving in Spain to work on literature review.

  • Please review your project with your academic or study abroad advisor to ensure it will transfer back to your home school and that you are following your home school’s policies.

Choosing Your Research Project

  • Review Project titles and descriptions below.
  • List 3 (in order of preference) in your personal essay.
  • Program is highly individualized, with limited enrollment.
  • You will need to complete a brief Literature Review in consultation with your research supervisor prior to departure before the start of the program. More details here.
  • We encourage you to contact Arcadia’s Assistant Dean of STEM programs, Dr. Jessie Guinn, to discuss your particular research interests further.


Environmental Sciences, Physics & Math Research with a CEAMA Course

Course ID Title Credits Syllabus
GRAN RSLW 392S International Independent Research in STEM Fields 6 PDF

2019 Research Projects

  • Influence of Anthropogenic Pollution in Clouds Formation (read more)
  • Photosynthesis and Transpiration in Olive Trees Under Different Scenarios of Climate Change (read more)
  • Drivers Involved in Photosynthesis and Soil CO2 Emissions in an Olive Orchard (read more)
  • Relating Aerosol Optical Properties to Emission Sources (read more)
  • Statistical Analysis of Clouds Properties During a Radar Campaign (read more)
  • Atmospheric Aerosol Particles and CO2 Flux Observations over an Undisturbed Peatland (read more)
  • What are the Effects on Global and Diffuse Shortwave Solar Irradiances During 10 Years of Desert Dust Episodes Over Southeastern Iberian Peninsula? (read more)
  • Potential Health Impact of Ultrafine Particles Under Different Urban Atmospheric Conditions (read more)

2019 Research Project Descriptions

Discipline: Atmospheric Science/Meteorology

Influence of anthropogenic pollution in clouds formation

Atmospheric aerosols influence the radiative balance of the Earth-atmosphere system directly by absorbing and scattering solar radiation, and indirectly by modifying cloud properties. Cloud droplets are formed by activation of a subset of aerosol particles called cloud condensation nuclei (CCN), which affect the radiative properties of clouds through modifying the cloud droplet number concentration, cloud droplet size, cloud lifetime and precipitation processes (e.g. Rosenfeld et al., 2014). To date, radiative forcing through aerosol-cloud interactions (ACI) constitutes the least understood anthropogenic influence on climate (IPCC, 2013). Emission of pollutants from anthropogenic sources (i.e. road traffic, biomass burning, industrial processes) can modify cloud properties compared with the pre-industrial atmospheric conditions. The main objective of this project is to investigate the impact of anthropogenic pollution in cloud formation in the Sierra Nevada (Granada, Spain).

References: IPCC: Climate Change 2013, Cambridge University Press, 2013. Rosenfeld, D., et al., Rev. Geophys., 52, 750-808, 2014.

Discipline: Environmental/Atmospheric Science

Photosynthesis and transpiration in olive trees under different scenarios of climate change.

To characterize the capability of agricultural ecosystems to absorb CO2 via photosynthesis processes is key to improve the knowledge about how these ecosystems will respond to climate change. Olive trees are one of the most important crops in the Mediterranean basin, accounting for 98% of the world’s olive cultivation area with relevant social and economic benefits. The aim of this project is to increase the knowledge about the photosynthesis and transpiration processes in an olive orchard. We want to know how the olive trees are affected by different climatic scenarios, in order to know the effect on the variation of assimilation of CO2, transpiration and the water use efficiency and be able to apply these results to future environmental management plans. The atmospheric conditions of CO2 and temperature that will be established, corresponding to different scenarios of increases in the CO2 concentrations and temperature based on IPCC models. For this purpose, photosynthesis and transpiration will be measured and analyzed by the student using a Portable Photosynthesis Chamber System (Li-Cor 6800, Lincoln, NE, USA).

Discipline: Environmental/Atmospheric Science

Drivers involved in photosynthesis and soil CO2 emissions in an olive orchard

The soil CO2 efflux (Fsoil) represents the major source of terrestrial CO2 emissions, but continuous measurements of this important land-atmosphere exchange are only sparsely available. Measurement of net ecosystem CO2 exchange (NEE) can be partitioned into ecosystem respiration (Reco) and gross ecosystem production (GEP). Despite the importance of Fsoi, it is a poorly constrained component of the terrestrial carbon cycle. Therefore, continuous and accurate estimates of Fsoil are needed to improve ecosystem CO2 flux partitioning. The main goal is to characterize the Fsoil in olive tree plantations to improve the NEE partitioning, yielding more accurate estimates of Reco and GEP. To respond our goal, we will address the following tasks: 1) To measure the diel Fsoil under olive trees and in inter-canopy soils during some field campaigns using a chamber system and 2) to measure photosynthesis from olive leaves to correlate with the Fsoil. The photosynthesis at leaf level will be measured during some field campaigns using a portable chamber system.

Discipline: Environmental/Atmospheric Science

Relating aerosol optical properties to emission sources

Particles suspended in the air (aerosols) can affect the radiative balance of the Earth by interacting with incoming solar radiation. There are two processes involved: the scattering and the absorption of light. These two optical properties and its spectral dependency are related to the size and chemical composition of aerosol. The ability to extrapolate particles size and composition, or emmision source, from intensive aerosol optical properties can help expand the current knowledge of spatiotemporal variability in aerosol type globally, particularly where chemical composition measurements do not exist concurrently with optical property measurements. In this study, measured aerosol optical properties from a mountain station in Granada (Sierra Nevada Station) will be used for aerosol typing (determining the aerosol source) focusing on detecting Saharan dust outbreaks impacting Sierra Nevada National Park.

References: Cazorla, A., et al, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 9337-9350, 2013. Schmeisser, L., et al., Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 12097-12120, 2017.

Discipline: Atmospheric Science/Meteorology

Statistical analysis of clouds properties during a radar campaign

Today Climate Change is affecting all regions in the World, causing a wide range of impacts on society and the environment. Further impacts are expected in the future, potentially causing high damage costs. In this regard, the European Union has developed a European Strategy on adaptation to Climate Change. However, to be able to take decisions on how best to adapt, it is essential to understand atmospheric processes. In this regards, clouds plays an important role in the Atmosphere-Earth energy balance. Researchers at IISTA-CEAMA are currently working on this topic. To do so, they use radar measurements to characterize clouds at different temperatures and heights. This project is now open to pro-active students interested on instrument operation and data analysis. Specifically, the student will operate a radar system together the responsible researchers and will analyze radar measurements gathered in an intensive campaign in Köln (Germany) on winter 2018-2019. The analysis will consist in a statistical characterization of the cloud type, according to meteorological and cloud properties. Finally, the student will discuss with the researchers to figure out how the cloud type influence the Atmosphere’s energy budget.

Discipline: Environmental/Atmospheric Science

Atmospheric aerosol particles and CO2 flux observations over an undisturbed peatland

Atmospheric aerosol particles and carbon dioxide (CO2) play an important role in Earth's climate. In addition, atmospheric aerosols (minute particles suspended in the atmosphere) have adverse effects on air quality, human health, ecosystems. Atmospheric aerosol and CO2 concentrations are greatly dependent on their sources and sinks. Therefore, the identification of the sources of these pollutants and the quantification of their atmospheric concentrations is very important for the development of pollution control strategies in order to reduce their negative effects on climate, air quality, human health and ecosystems. Flux measurements allow us to determine whether an area of interest or ecosystem is acting as a net source or sink of aerosol particles and CO2. Measurements of Particles and CO2 fluxes have been made in various ecosystems, but to date, there are only few flux measurements in some important ecosystems like peatlands. Peatlands, type of wetlands, are critical for preserving global biodiversity, provide safe drinking water risk and help address climate change. The area covered by undisturbed natural peatland worldwide store more carbon than all other vegetation types in the world combined. However, damaged peatlands are a major source of CO2 emissions, annually releasing almost 6% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Furthermore, to date, it is not clear if peatlands act as a net source or sink of aerosol particles. Thus, further researches are still needed in order to better understand the exchange of aerosol particles and CO2 between the atmosphere and the different peatlands. The main goal of this project is to quantify the exchange of aerosol particles and CO2 between the atmosphere and an undisturbed peatland in order to answer the question: whether undisturbed peatland is acting as a net source or sink of aerosol particles and CO2? To achieve this objective, the student will implement (under the supervision of the researcher) LiCOR's EddyPro software to process data, collected by our group during summer 2018 in undisturbed peatland in Poland, and calculates aerosol particles and CO2 fluxes. In addition, the student will analyze the temporal behavior of the obtained aerosol particles and CO2 flux and study the correlation between the particles and carbon dioxide (CO2) fluxes.

Discipline: Atmospheric Science/Meteorology

What are the effects on global and diffuse shortwave solar irradiances during 10 years of desert dust episodes over southeastern Iberian Peninsula?

This Project is focused on evaluating the influence of Saharan desert dust events on global (direct + diffuse) and diffuse shortwave irradiance (0.305 to 2.8 μm) modelled with a radiative transfer code (SBDART) at Granada (South Spain) during 10 years. This code will be fed with aerosol properties and atmospheric parameters just recorded during desert dust intrusions. The contribution of coarse mineral dust particles to the total aerosol load will be evaluated through the aerosol optical depth (AOD) and Angstrom exponent values recorded by a sun-photometer. To achieve these objectives, the student will classify days affected by dust particles and download aerosol properties from AERONET data set. Later, he/she will use SBDART to model global and diffuse shortwave irradiance.

Discipline: Environmental/Atmospheric Science

Potential health impact of ultrafine particles under different urban atmospheric conditions

It is well known that atmospheric aerosol particles, a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air, causes a number of health effects even at relatively low concentrations. Exposure to elevated levels of aerosol particles increases the rate of respiratory problems, hospitalizations due to lung or heart disease, and premature death. The aerosol particles inhaled doses deposited in the human respiratory system strictly depend on the particle sizes. Compared to larger particles, Ultra Fine Particles (particles with diameter<100 nm) efficiently penetrate into the respiratory system and are capable of translocating from the airways into the blood circulation. On the other hand, coarse particles (particles with diameter>2.5 mm) are primarily deposited in the extrathoracic region, from where they can be normally cleared by mechanical clearance (sneezing, coughing or swallowing). In this context, recent studies indicate that coarse particles are less harmful than smaller particles. Apart from particle size, the deposition of aerosol particles in the human respiratory tract also depends on lung morphometry and respiratory physiology. Due to the difficulties of the human in-vivo studies, different modelling techniques have been developed to predict the deposition patterns of inhaled aerosol particles in subsections of the human respiratory tract. Multiple-Path Particle Dosimetry model (MPPD), is one of the more efficient and precise models for calculation of aerosol deposition fractions of the inhaled aerosol particles in various human respiratory compartments, under different exposure conditions, airway morphometry and particle properties (density, diameter and size distribution). On this premise, the aim of this project is to study the deposition of atmospheric particles in the human respiratory system under different real conditions (background, desert dust intrusions and anthropogenic conditions). For that, the student will use ultrafine particles data collected by our group at Granada city under different atmospheric conditions and apply it to MPPD pulmonary deposition model, in order to estimate the amount of particles present in the environment that can be deposited in the human respiratory tract.

Grade Scale

The following information is vetted and provided by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) on the Electronic Database for Global Education (EDGE).

Spanish Abbreviation Translation Numeric U.S. Equivalent
Sobresaliente SB Outstanding 9 - 10 A
Notable NT Very Good 7 - 8.99 B+
Bien B Good 6 - 6.99 B
Aprobado AP Passing 5 - 5.99 C
Suspenso S/I Fail 0 - 4.99 F