Skip to Content

French fries, Ferris wheels, and physics

Physics day at the fair brings together UofSC faculty, high school students



For a moment, Lori Ziolkowski stood alone on the ice.

Ziolkowski, an assistant professor in the University of South Carolina’s earth and ocean sciences department, spent this past February in Antarctica, searching for life in extreme conditions at the bottom of the world.

The first non-European recipient of the prestigious Baillet Latour Fellowship, awarded by the International Polar Foundation, Ziolkowski joined a 17-scientist team on the trail of microbes. The scientists were seeking evidence of microbial activity and carbon accumulation that could have ramifications for everything from the study of climate change to the search for life in outer space.

One day, on her way to collect a sample, she decided on a whim to grab a pair of skis from the isolated Belgian research station that was home base.

 "It was wild. I was by myself, skiing,” Ziolkowski says. Her destination wasn’t far from the station, “but just being by yourself in Antarctica is kind of weird."

Ziolkowski specializes in radiocarbon dating of compounds to measure life cycles and address environmental concerns, and her work has taken her to Alaskan glaciers and across the Canadian Arctic. But nothing struck her or her friends and colleagues quite as much as standing on a vast sheet of frozen ice, sunlight glinting in every direction, at the edge of a still-mysterious continent.

 "I have never done anything that captured so many people's curiosity", she says.

 "Ziolkowski will return to Antarctica in December for the second leg of the two-year grant. For now, back in her lab at Carolina, she will spend the summer examining samples of water, rock and algae, searching for clues to the age of the carbon contained in the microbes.

 "I'd be pleased to find abundant life in these samples, just because it's such a harsh environment that you don't expect to find life there",  she says. "I came back with enough samples that we could get many papers out of what we've collected so far."

Lori Ziolkowski selfie with icy Antarctica backdrop.

Udi oditaspellis explatquo cus autest, nullictiaese parchillabo. Ut unt volest maio idipsam nimini optiur. De earitia ectibus, ut audis alitati umenimet laborios esciatquo.

“I have never done anything that captured so many people’s curiosity,” she says.

Ziolkowski will return to Antarctica in December for the second leg of the two-year grant. For now, back in her lab at Carolina, she will spend the summer examining samples of water, rock and algae, searching for clues to the age of the carbon contained in the microbes.

“I’d be pleased to find abundant life in these samples, just because it’s such a harsh environment that you don’t expect to find life there,” she says. “I came back with enough samples that we could get many papers out of what we’ve collected so far.”

Ziolkowski will return to Antarctica in December for the second leg of the two-year grant. For now, back in her lab at Carolina, she will spend the summer examining samples of water, rock and algae, searching for clues to the age of the carbon contained in the microbes.

“I’d be pleased to find abundant life in these samples, just because it’s such a harsh environment that you don’t expect to find life there,” she says. “I came back with enough samples that we could get many papers out of what we’ve collected so far.”

 

Ziolkowski will return to Antarctica in December for the second leg of the two-year grant. For now, back in her lab at Carolina, she will spend the summer examining samples of water, rock and algae, searching for clues to the age of the carbon contained in the microbes.

“I’d be pleased to find abundant life in these samples, just because it’s such a harsh environment that you don’t expect to find life there,” she says. “I came back with enough samples that we could get many papers out of what we’ve collected so far.”

 

Udi oditaspellis explatquo cus autest, nullictiaese parchillabo. Ut unt volest maio idipsam nimini optiur. De earitia ectibus, ut audis alitati umenimet laborios esciatquo.