Meet the Team


Rachel Obbard and Sarah

Rachel Obbard and Sarah

Rachel Obbard: the Bold

Principal Investigator

Ever since her childhood catching salamanders in the creek and building tree houses, Rachel has known she was a scientist and engineer. As a girl, if you asked her to “play Barbies”, she would offer instead to build them something! She now has a BSc in Engineering Physics, an MSc in Materials Science and Engineering, and a PhD in Engineering. Her first professional job was as a petroleum engineer on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The hours were two weeks on – with 12 hour days – and 2 weeks off, and she commuted by helicopter. For exercise, she ran laps around the rigs’ helipads and, while she got dizzy, never once did she trip and fall into the shark-infested waters below.

After working in business for twelve years, Rachel decided to go to graduate school. Then she worked for the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England. This led to the strangest class she has ever taken, Helicopter Underwater Escape Training, which was taught by the Royal Air Force. She is pleased to say she hasn’t used those skills yet.

Rachel is now a research professor at Dartmouth College, where she teaches a course on sports engineering and does laboratory and field research on ice sheets and sea ice. She loves doing basic science in amazing places and working with students of all ages. She still gets to build things, such as the ICE-MITT, but they are a lot more complicated and require the expertise of many people.

Rachel, her son, and their dog live in a cohousing community on a farm in Vermont. When not at Dartmouth or the Poles, she shares in work around the community and gardens. In the winter she skis and snowboards and on cold winter nights, Rachel loves reading and doing puzzles – jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, and cryptograms.


Ross Lieb-Lappen: the Tall

Ph.D. Student

Ross Lieb-Lappen

Ross Lieb-Lappen

Ross is a Ph.D. candidate at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, where he studies the microstructure of snow and ice, in particular sea ice. He received his B.A. from Middlebury College in environmental studies and chemistry, and his M.S. from the University of Vermont in mathematics. Ross was psyched to join a team that would enable him to get out on exciting field research expeditions, taking him from the Ross Sea (great name, eh?) in Antarctica to Barrow, Alaska.

Having never soldered a thing in his life, trying to build 10 ICE-MITTs this year was a daunting challenge. However, with the help of a great team, he finally feels like a true engineer for the first time. Ross is excited for the opportunity to both test whether it is indeed possible to keep sea ice in its natural condition during a 5,000 mile road trip and share this research with a greater audience.

Outside of research, Ross enjoys getting outdoors as much as possible, and is thankful to live in the beautiful state of Vermont, which provides easy access to the Green, White, and Adirondack Mountains. He is an avid skier, frequently hitting the bumps and woods of Mad River Glen, Jay Peak, Killington, Dartmouth Skiway, Tuckerman’s Ravine, and the backcountry of VT. He also loves most sports, especially adventure racing, running, basketball, frisbee, volleyball, and all racket sports. Although VT is his home, Ross loves traveling and has a life goal of visiting the same number of countries as his age (currently 30). In addition, he is working on hiking the highest point in every state (35 down, 15 to go).


Natalie Afonina: the Friendly

Engineering Student

Natalie Afonina

Natalie Afonina

Natalie will graduate in 2016 with a B.E. in Chemical Engineering and an M.S. in Materials Science from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth. She has a B.A. in Chemistry and Math from Middlebury College. She worked at a Boston-based startup developing experimental fuel cell materials for underwater, unmanned vehicles before pursuing her Masters work on characterizing superalloys and their applications for high temperature energy conversion. She has also worked changing semi-truck tires in the Alaskan Arctic, has been an ice-climbing guide on a glacier and has worked at a remote bush plane location with the grizzly bears and caribou for a few summers where she learned how to at least take off in a plane, if not quite mastered the landing portion.

During this project, funded by the Institute for Arctic Studies, she will be aiding in the collection of ice cores at the tail end of the Barrow phase of the trip, and helping supervise the engineering and transport of the samples from Barrow, AK back to the ice labs at Thayer. She is a fluent Russian speaker and in addition to engineering and tinkering with Arduino coding projects, she enjoys alpine rock and ice climbing, world travel (recent destinations include Yemen, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine), cold-water scuba diving and catching up on Top Gear episodes.


Ellyn Golden: the Young

Undergraduate Student

Ellyn Golden

Ellyn Golden

Ellyn is a 20 year old from Boston, MA and Portland, ME. She graduated as a boarder from Milton Academy in Boston before coming to Dartmouth where she is in the class of 2017. She now finds herself on the border of Vermont and New Hampshire because of her experiences at a semester program called The Mountain School in Vershire, VT cementing her love for New England, fickle weather, winter sports, NorthFace parkas, European style farm houses, and being in the absolute heart of nowhere land. She is an Earth Sciences major and would love to work for National Geographic when she grows up, but being a professional ski bum/civil rights lawyer comes in a close second.

Ellyn first came to know Ross Lieb-Lappen and Rachel Obbard through Dartmouth’s first year Women in Science Program (WISP). The pair thought that she was cool enough to join in on their project investigating the micro-structure of first year and multi-year sea ice. Ellyn was the intern who got to map all of the brine networks of the ice using a Micro-CT scanner—not at all a bad gig for a freshman in college if you ask me. She has been able to accompany this lovely pair on academic vacations before, such as their trips to Argonne National Lab in Chicago, so she knows that the coming six weeks in the Arctic will not tear the team apart. Ellyn admits that this project has given her so many skills that she would not otherwise have and has sculpted her into a better scientist and student. She cannot wait to see what this team can do in the Dead of Winter in Barrow, AK.

When Ellyn is not playing the role of polar scientist, she is a resident and enthusiast of the Sustainable Living Center, an active member of the DOC, a writer and contributor for the Dartmouth Film Society Directorate, a writer for V-February’s Voices performance, a supporter of the Divest Dartmouth Campaign, a sister of the Epsilon Kappa Theta Sorority, an avid skier and outdoor enthusiast, and a salesperson for Zimmerman’s NorthFace in downtown Hanover.


The entire team from left to right Ross, Ellyn, Rachel, Natalie

The entire team from left to right Ross, Ellyn, Rachel, Natalie

The ICE-MITT Logo, Ellyn was a rookie and did not wear her team approved t-shirt on picture day

The ICE-MITT Logo, Ellyn was a rookie and did not wear her team approved t-shirt on picture day

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