Behind every National Science Foundation and military scientist performing research in remote cold region
locations like Antarctica, there is someone managing the logistics behind the operation. Someone who understands the best ways to build roads and runways in snow and on ice. Someone who knows how to make local water drinkable at remote campsites. Someone
like Maggie Knuth ’06 (MS CE).
“My work helps make the military and NSF scientists’ work possible,” says Knuth.
Working for the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL), Knuth is involved in the behind-the-scenes operations to ensure research can be properly conducted in remote Arctic and Antarctic locations, from testing road conditions to finding new ways to make polar facilities more energy efficient.
Knuth is based in Hanover, N.H., which is one of seven U.S. Army Corps of Engineers research labs. In her laboratory, she carries out a series of roles, such as writing proposals and reports, analyzing collected data and packing crates of equipment for field deployments.
For Knuth, solving issues in cold regions often means traveling to cold regions. “I’ve been to Summit Station in Greenland and Antarctica to get on the ground and see what’s going on,” Knuth adds. “I get
to go to some awesome places.”
As the climate changes, the landscape of remote cold regions like the Arctic will also
change significantly and so will the opportunities for business. “The Arctic is changing annually, so more people, ships and businesses are looking to utilize it in new ways for the future,” she says.
“The work I am doing is laying the foundation for our military and commercial industries to work in the polar environment.”
Before her work with CRREL, Knuth earned a B.S. in physics and marine science from the University of Miami in 2003. While an undergraduate, she was chosen for the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) program in Dalian, China, which is administered through Clarkson and led by engineering professors Hayley Shen and Hung Tao Shen.
After getting to know the Shens in China, she decided to attend Clarkson for graduate school.
Knuth’s interest in cold regions developed while she was a graduate student in Clarkson’s civil engineering program working under Prof. Hayley Shen. As a graduate student, Knuth presented her research internationally and returned to China with the Shens to assist with the REU program.
She also spent two months of her first semester at Clarkson on a research cruise in Antarctica. “My job was to take sea ice observations for 12 hours a day, every day,” she explains. “It was a great experience and really gave me a better ‘real-world’ understanding of sea ice development, which ended up being the subject of my thesis.”
After receiving her MS from Clarkson, Knuth had a one-year Sea Grant Fellowship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration working in the Office of Polar Programs at the NSF and assisting in environmental impact assessments for research and logistics projects in Antarctica. She also participated in the annual Antarctic Treaty meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland.
From 2007-2009, Knuth worked as a research engineer in the Center for Maritime Systems and Stevens Institute of Technology, where her time was spent on the Hudson River and New Jersey coast installing instrumentation such as water gauges, weather stations and buoys. She also performed field research and data analysis including testing acoustic sensors and coastal bathymetry (the study of ocean floors) surveys of local beach fill projects.
She says, “My work at Clarkson, and with Prof. Hayley Shen in particular, taught me about the process of doing research — and the patience it really takes. I couldn’t do any of my work today without that solid base of understanding.”