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Two UCSD researchers will travel far and wide this summer

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Got a good atlas? One might be helpful to understand how far-flung some scientists who work at UC San Diego in La Jolla will be this summer when they’re conducting field research.

Ruixue Jia, an economist, will roam through China.

Fiamma Straneo, an oceanographer at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, is headed for an icy stretch of the North Atlantic off Greenland.

Jia will make liberal use of China’s high-speed rail system to move among big cities, small towns and obscure villages to get a fresh look at what’s happening economically and culturally in the world’s second-most-populous nation.

She’ll pay special attention to how industry is coping with worker shortages.

“Young people don’t want to work in factories anymore; they think it’s boring,” said Jia, who studies the political and historical context in which companies change, especially in adopting new technology. “I’ll ask businesses if they’ll use more machines, including robotics.”

She’ll also engage members of the public in general conversations about their day-to-day lives, avoiding sensitive political topics. Jia, who is Chinese, said she expects that to be a bright spot of her trip.

She also will drop by music festivals to connect with young people.

“You see slogans about feminism and LGBT, which are [otherwise] forbidden topics in public,” Jia said. “But young people express themselves in the subculture.”

Fiamma Straneo of UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography will be conducting research off Greenland this summer.

(Alex Rivest)

In Greenland, Straneo hopes to add details of what’s happening with Earth warming by taking baseline data of things such as ocean temperature and salinity off the northwestern part of the island.

The work involves risk. She’ll be on a research ship that will have to slowly pick its way through sea ice and glaciers.

Still, she said, “we think some of the warming of the ocean has made its way to the glaciers. It’s one of the drivers of ice loss from the ice sheet.”

“One of the goals is to get as close to some of the glaciers as we can,” Straneo said. “But there’s always a balance between pushing science and wanting to be safe.” ◆

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