NOAA scholars are making waves in the private sector

Over the past 12 years, the NOAA Hollings and Educational Partnership Program with Minority-Serving Institutions (EPP/MSI) undergraduate scholarships have supported over 1,300 students studying in STEM fields, social science, and education. The scholarships provide students with two years of financial support and valuable research experiences that may not otherwise be available at the undergraduate level. NOAA scholars spend 10 weeks in their summer internships gaining hands-on research and technological experience at NOAA labs and facilities. Nearly half of the alumni in the workforce are putting their skills to use in the private sector, working as environmental consultants, meteorologists, engineers, hydrologists, and more.

Dr. Kersey Sturdivant, an Educational Partnership Program alum, conducts an environmental assessment for the Block Island Wind Farm.
Dr. Kersey Sturdivant, an Educational Partnership Program alum, conducts an environmental assessment for the Block Island Wind Farm. (Dr. Kersey Sturdivant)

Many NOAA scholarship alumni are using their skills in the environmental consulting industry. Dr. Kersey Sturdivant, a 2005 EPP/MSI undergraduate scholarship alum and professor at Duke University in North Carolina, helped start a small business based on sediment profiling technology he worked on as a graduate student. His company, INSPIRE Environmental, performs rapid marine environmental assessments of the sea floor. He has worked with clients on offshore wind and energy habitat assessments as well as monitoring the recovery of deep sea habitats after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

Kersey said that the mentorship he received during his NOAA scholarship experience was invaluable. Now he mentors students and advises that many science careers offer rewarding work, including opportunities in the private sector. In addition, scholarship alumni have built careers with environmental consulting firms such as AECOM, Closed Loop Advisors, and Environmental Resources Management.

Several NOAA scholarship alumni work as meteorologists in the private sector, including Abby Dyer, an on-air meteorologist for the local NBC/ABC affiliated television station in Missouri, KY3. As a 2009 Hollings Scholar, Abby created a program for Science On a Sphere® entitled, “Vog [smog or haze containing volcanic dust and gases] on the Island of Hawaii,” during her internship at the Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii. She analyzed data from the Mauna Kea Observatory and local weather forecast office and created visuals to represent the data. In addition, she utilized her communication skills to write and record the script. The experience inspired her to pursue a broadcast career. 

Hollings alumna and current KY3 Storm Team Meteorologist Abigail Dyer.
Hollings alumna and current KY3 Storm Team Meteorologist Abigail Dyer. (Abigail Dyer)

Today, Abby’s forecast reaches 42 counties in Missouri and Arkansas. Her job is to forecast the weather daily for her viewing area and effectively communicate watches and warnings issued by the region’s National Weather Service forecast offices. Abby mentors an intern every summer, and future meteorologists often shadow her on the job. She tells the students about the opportunities offered by NOAA undergraduate scholarships. Other NOAA scholarship alumni are putting their meteorology skills to work at companies including CNN International, Zurich, Weather Decision Technologies Inc., and Risk Management Solutions. 

Both private and public sector organizations play critical roles in providing environmental information. NOAA undergraduate scholars develop transferable skills that set them up for success in any sector.


This story was originally published as part of the 2017 NOAA Education Accomplishments Report