Four Hobart and William Smith seniors — Caitlin Crossett ’15, Pamela Eck ’15, Raleigh Grysko ’15 and Elliott Morrill ’15, all Geoscience majors with concentrations in atmospheric science — have been accepted to competitive graduate programs in specialized areas within the field.
In the fall of 2015, Crossett will attend the master’s program in mathematical sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM); Eck will attend the master’s program in atmospheric sciences at the State University of New York (SUNY) Albany, with the option to continue on toward a Ph.D.; Grysko will attend the Ph.D. program in atmospheric sciences at Washington State University (WSU); and Morrill will attend the Master’s in Professional Science program at the University of Miami.
Geoscience faculty Neil Laird and Nick Metz, who over the past four years have taught and mentored the students, aren’t surprised by the grad school acceptances.
“These students have taken full advantage of everything we’ve been able to offer,” says Laird, a full professor and chair of the Geoscience Department. “We’ve encouraged them to build on their experiences at HWS by seeking opportunities outside the Colleges, working with people other than me and Nick, attending conferences to connect with other scholars, and encouraging them to become well-rounded in terms of their experiences. Now they’re getting multiple offers to graduate programs in a competitive discipline. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Metz, an assistant professor, says, “It’s easy to write letters of recommendation for these students. They have truly been a pleasure to work with — in independent studies, honors projects, in class, in the GEO 299 field course. They have a lot to offer, not just to this institution but when they continue onto the next step of their journey. They are well-rounded students and scholars, not just in science but also broadly across the liberal arts.”
Crossett – a Geoscience major and Environmental Studies minor who works in the HWS science office and is president of the Geoscience@HWS Club — says that the first thing that drew her to UWM program “was that there are only about 14 students in the graduate program which will lead to building great relationships between faculty and students, something that I have come to cherish here at HWS.”
Eck, a Geoscience and Environmental Studies double major with a minor in Mathematics, says, “The Atmospheric Science department at Albany is extremely prestigious and is well known as one of the best programs in the country.”
A 2013 Hollings Scholar, Eck is the president of the Habitat for Humanity Club, a tour guide and senior interviewer for the Office of Admissions, and a spinning instructor at the Bristol Field House. She has long been interested in atmospheric science, recalling a middle school earth science class. “There was a unit on the weather and I absolutely fell in love with the material. From that point forward, I always knew that I wanted to be a meteorologist,” she says. Having met her future advisers and colleagues at SUNY — where Metz, her HWS adviser, earned his Ph.D. — Eck says she “can tell that they are great people. I think I will really enjoy working with them.”
Grysko, who in addition the majoring in Geoscience is minoring in Environmental Studies and Physics, notes the number of research opportunities offered within the atmospheric science concentration. In the summer of 2014, he was accepted into an atmospheric science Research Experience for Undergraduates opportunity (REU) at WSU.
“The research I conducted during this summer REU is how I initially became interested in my particular area of interest within the atmospheric sciences — boundary layer meteorology. I enjoyed my research topic and time at WSU so much I decided to pursue my graduate studies there as well,” he says.
At the University of Miami, Morrill will undertake a two-semester Master’s program alongside a three-to-twelve month long internship. Feeling “very prepared to tackle the graduate programs as well as the professional world,” he says he was drawn to the M.P.S. program’s focus on “the applied side of meteorology…This program will allow me to explore the professional side as opposed to the research side of meteorology.”
As Laird and Metz note, these four students comprise part of the first cohort to concentrate in atmospheric sciences at HWS after the Geoscience Department restructured the curriculum, around the time Metz joined the faculty.
With Metz’s hire, the department was able to expand course offerings in atmospheric science, which — in combination with the Summer Research Program and other “applied experiences, independent studies, and Honors projects” — rounds out an academic preparation in atmospheric science “that rivals undergraduate atmospheric science programs at other institutions,” Laird says.
Expanded course offerings, greater participation in the HWS first-year seminar series, and restructured Geoscience curriculum have coincided with an uptick in the popularity of the Geoscience major.
“Students are seeing this momentum,” Laird explains, “and we (students and faculty) are really embracing this in the department. Students are able to experience Geoscience fully by taking introductory courses in hydrology, geology and meteorology, as well as focus on an area that especially interests them by completing a suite of elective courses for in-depth exploration and understand.”
The combination of a tight-knit program and the collaborative nature of the coursework, lab-work, fieldwork and conference presentations, Metz says, positions students well as they head into graduate study. “With the way the curriculum works” at HWS, Metz says, “students take courses with other students outside their class year. They figure out the research process together, take time and hone research writing skills, work on presentation skills, develop poster presentations and refine one-on-one discussion.”
“I loved the HWS Geoscience program,” says Morrill, a Geoscience major, Mathematics and Environmental Studies double minor, as well as captain of the HWS sailing team and a member of Statesmen Seniors and Captains Council. “My interest in atmospheric science stemmed from my first courses at HWS. I was placed into the first-year seminar “Science and Communication of Weather,” which was a Learning Community coupled with Introduction to Meteorology. After those two classes I was hooked, I continued to take atmospheric courses at the Colleges and have taken almost every course available.”
For Grysko, a Quantitative Reasoning Fellow and a brother of the Chi Phi Fraternity, it was a two-week GEO 299 field course in Hawaii that began the geoscience fascination. The following fall, he enrolled in Introduction to Meteorology taught by Metz. “It was this class as well as the teaching method of Dr. Metz that inspired me to proceed into the upper-level Geoscience courses, which ultimately got me hooked with the atmospheric sciences,” he says.
As graduation approaches, Crossett says she feels “more than prepared…for the rigors of graduate study. The HWS professors hold us to a high academic standard and teach us material usually reserved for classes at the graduate level. This will give me confidence as I move on to graduate school, because I know that Professors Laird and Metz have given me all of the tools that I need to be successful in my post-HWS career.”
Read more about the projects these atmospheric science students have undertaken during their years at HWS: