ATHENS, Ohio (April 20, 2007) -- Tornadoes, hurricanes and blizzards fascinate sophomore geography and meteorology major Jeff Waters. Thanks to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Hollings Scholarship, his chances for studying severe weather among the nation's best scholars are looking quite bright.
Waters and sophomore math and French major Elizabeth Nalepa won the award, which recognizes students interested in oceanic and atmospheric science. It includes an $8,000 scholarship for each of the next two years and a paid 10-week internship the summer after the junior year.
"This is going to open up so many doors for me," Waters said, explaining that the internship experience will help set him apart in a very competitive field. "The internship will help me be noticed by administrators at NOAA."
Waters recently signed on to work as a research assistant at Scalia Lab, a university service that provides weather forecasts. He said he hopes to go to graduate school and eventually have an impact on speeding up experts' ability to warn people of a weather disaster before the weather hits.
"He has a social consciousness, and that came out early in his application," said Professor of Geography Dorothy Sack, Waters' adviser. "To really care so much about the impact on people, for him to cross over to the social human side, for that to be so foremost in his mind is really special."
Waters also is a member of the Meteorology Club, Water Ski Team, Snowcats Ski and Snowboard Club, and recently was elected vice president of the O-Zone.
Also excited about the internship opportunity the award offers is Liz Nalepa, a sophomore math major in the Honors Tutorial College.
"It's pretty rare to find opportunities for internships for a math major and I was looking for projects that would let me develop my skills," Nalepa said.
Nalepa spends time volunteering in local schools, including tutoring gifted and talented elementary students, and participates in the fencing club and has a second major in French. She explained that the second major not only provides a diversion from math, having the ability to learn a language could come in handy if she should someday pursue a career with the government, which often seeks out people with language and mathematics skills.
"She's very polished in her way of learning," said Associate Professor of Mathematics David Keck, who has taught Nalepa in two HTC tutorials. "She's not just a one-dimensional student. She's very interested in mathematics but she has a lot of interests."
Keck explained that in addition to her second major, last summer Nalepa had a research apprenticeship in a genetics lab, where she helped study interactions between a type of fruit fly genes, which have been closely related to cancer.
Waters and Nalepa are the third and fourth Ohio University students in three years to win NOAA Hollings Scholarships.
Winning such competitive and prestigious awards is the academic equivalent of making the Olympic team. Ohio University students compete for some of the most sought-after awards in the country -- such as the Truman and the Marshall. In 2005-06 they won 45 nationally competitive honors, including 13 U.S. Student Fulbright grants. The university led the state for the fourth straight year for its number of Fulbright grantees and is ranked nationally among institutions such as Princeton University and Boston College.
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