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Featured Researcher: Andrew Shaughnessy

Posted on March 31, 2022


What’s the elevator pitch for your research?

Understanding processes that impact water quality and quantity is pivotal in maintaining the safety and security of our water resources in the future. My research focuses on using machine learning to link the changes in the hydrologic cycle to anthropogenic perturbations. I integrate data science and geoscience perspectives by utilizing a novel combination of sample-based and data-driven techniques across various spatial and temporal scales to investigate environmental issues.By developing a deeper understanding of earth surface processes, we can protect future human and environmental health, especially facing impending climate change challenges.


How did you get into this research field?

I first found myself becoming interested in data science during my undergrad when I was tasked with correcting sensor data for calibration drift. I quickly learned that applying excel formulas by hand was time consuming and often lead to issues with reproducibility. I taught myself how to code in R and subsequently published an R package to help other scientists drift correct their own data. Learning how to code was the first step in my journey towards becoming an environmental data scientist.


What is your academic background?

I received my bachelor’s in Chemistry and Environmental Science at Saint Louis University. Since then, I have been working on my PhD in Geosciences here at Penn State.


What are the big problems you hope your research solves — and/or the big opportunities you hope your research seizes?

To me, water quality and quantity issues are some of the most important. Everyone needs clean water and there are big concerns about the security of our water resources in the future, especially in the face of climate change. I hope that my research can help us predict where and why we might expect water quality degradation in the future in order to develop targeted remediation strategies.


What types of interdisciplinary collaborations would you like to build in the future?

The hydrosphere is the key link between atmospheric, terrestrial, biological, and marine processes. I would like to collaborate with all these different sub-fields of Earth Science to build a more wholistic understanding of earth surface processes. Additionally, water quality issues are important with respect to human and environmental health. I would like to collaborate with researchers involved with environmental ethics and stewardship.


What’s your advice for would-be scientists?

One piece of advice that I have for would-be-scientists is to always continue to build your scientific toolbox. Answering difficult questions often involves creative solutions that draw on many analytical, statistical, and data-driven techniques.


Favorite hobbies/pastimes that have nothing to do with your professional work?

One of my favorite hobbies is reading books. I work on the computer most of the day and I find it incredibly relaxing to finish the day with a good book. I am a big fan of mystery novels and I’m always looking for good recommendations.


What is something that people are surprised to discover about you?

I have always been a huge fan of classic cars. When I was 15 I bought a bright yellow 1948 Chrysler New Yorker from a barn in Lecompton, Kansas. I worked on that car all the time throughout high school and when I left for college, I donated it to the Kansas City Automotive Museum. If you are ever in Kansas City, you can still see my car sitting out front.


Three favorite podcasts

    • Crime Junkies
    • Blood Brothers Crime Writing
    • Anything from Wondery (Dr. Death, Bad Batch, The Shrink Next Door)





















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