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KU geography researcher receives NSF CAREER award for community adaptation research

Fri, 05/11/2012

So-Min Cheong


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LAWRENCE – A University of Kansas researcher has been awarded one of the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious honors.

So-Min Cheong, an assistant professor of geography, has been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, the NSF’s most prominent prize for junior faculty.

Cheong will use the five-year, $410,000 award to further her research on community adaptation to environmental disasters.

“Across the world, communities are increasingly faced with a variety of environmental disasters ranging from hurricanes to droughts to oil spills,” Cheong said. “My research seeks to better understand how communities respond to these events so that localities, nations and international communities are better equipped to manage and prepare for future disasters.”

Cheong’s research proposal, titled “Community Adaptation to Changing Environmental Disasters,” explores how people adapt to environmental disasters of a different magnitude, intensity or type than they’re accustomed to. Utilizing interviews, observation and surveys, she will test whether adaptations to past disasters can affect communities’ ability to adapt to current disasters. She’ll also explore how communities’ internal cohesion and external linkages influence the transfer of knowledge and resources to adapt to disasters by examining the case of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“One of the goals of this research is to inform disaster and adaptation policymaking, planning and community management,” she said.

NSF CAREER awards support junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.

Cheong has been on the KU faculty since 2005, serving in the geography department and as part of the KU Institute for Policy and Social Research. Her research investigates the ways people adapt to environmental change, focusing on extreme and gradual changes in coastal environments, particularly on the topics of fisheries depletion, oil spills and climate change. She has served as lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.

Cheong was also a visiting professor at Stanford while at KU. She received her doctorate in geography from the University of Washington, where she also earned M.A. degrees in marine affairs and international studies. She earned her B.A. in English from Yonsei University in Korea.




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