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Sophomore Ellen Jorgensen Named a 2021 NOAA-Hollings Scholar
In high school, Ellen Jorgensen was highly involved in the Green Club in her school and led initiatives that focused on waste reduction. She also developed education initiatives for her peers to give them a sense of responsibility regarding the environment.
“In high school, my passion for the environment developed out of concern for the planet and frustration with the lack of urgency around me. At that point, my love for science in the classroom and my dedication to environmental action seemed separate,” she says. “Today, the convergence of these passions forms the foundation of my academic and professional goals. … While I wasn’t aware of climate sciences as a career path back in high school, I now see it as a calling.”
Jorgensen, a sophomore double major in earth sciences and environment, sustainability and policy in the College of Arts and Sciences, a Coronat Scholar and a member of Renée Crown University Honors Program, is a recipient of a 2021 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship, which will help support her studies.
Named for Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings of South Carolina, the prestigious award provides tuition support ($9,500 per year) and paid summer internships with NOAA to recipients. The award is designed to support students working in areas related to NOAA’s programs and mission. Students apply as sophomores, do an internship in their junior year, and receive support and mentorship throughout their undergraduate career.
“Receiving NOAA’s Hollings scholarship is an honor and affirms my passion for climate and environmental science. I am very excited to participate in their internship program to explore applications of climate science in the field,” says Jorgensen. “While I have certainly worked hard to reach this achievement, it is much more a testament to the immense support I have received from CFSA; the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences; my faculty mentor, Dr. Bhattacharya; and above all, my family.”
Jorgensen is also pursuing a minor in physics and says her majors and minor allow her to balance her focus on scientific studies of the climate with a grounding in policy. She is currently engaged in research in the Paleoclimate Dynamics Lab of Tripti Bhattacharya, Thonis Family Professor: Paleoclimate Dynamics and assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences.
Jorgensen works with Bhattacharya constructing temperature proxies for the mid-Pliocene, a period that may serve as a predictor of the challenges ocean ecosystems will face in the coming century. Their research uses alkenones, biomarkers produced by haptophyte algae sourced from ocean sediment, to generate new records of ocean temperatures. In the fall of 2020, Jorgensen focused on samples from a site off of the coast of southern California, extracting alkenones from these samples. “Working in an active laboratory, I have gained a much greater understanding of mechanisms by which discoveries are made in the field of earth sciences,” she says.
Jorgensen also received a grant last summer from the University’s Office of Undergraduate Research (SOURCE), which she used to review literature on alkenone temperature proxies and paleoclimate reconstruction. This summer, she will pursue new channels of paleoclimate research through a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program in a lab at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
Jorgensen is also involved in several community sustainability efforts. During the summer of 2020, she worked on a farm in North Carolina through WWOOF, an organization that provides small organic farms with volunteer help, to support sustainable, small scale food production and sell organic produce to local communities. During the academic year, Jorgensen is a volunteer with the University’s Office of Sustainability Management and manages the compost pile used by members of the University’s housing community. Currently, she is involved with the Student Association’s sustainability committee, with whom she has helped develop waste-reduction campaigns such as the promotion of reusable menstrual products for Earth Day later this month.
In all the work she does, whether in the lab or in the community, Jorgensen knows the importance of good communication. “I know that communication skills are an integral tool for a scientist aiming to make change,” she says. She sharpened her skills as the editor in chief of her high school newspaper and in her role as a writer at the University’s Blackstone LaunchPad, where she wrote stories about entrepreneurial projects.
After graduating from Syracuse, Jorgensen plans to pursue master’s and doctoral degrees in earth and environmental sciences. “I will center my career around my passion for innovative climate research while opening pathways for communication with communities who will benefit from the research,” she says. Ultimately, she plans to lead her own laboratory focused on predictive climate sciences.
Jorgensen worked with the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA) to apply for the NOAA scholarship. CFSA offers candidates advising and assistance with applications and interview preparation for nationally competitive scholarships.
“Ellen’s clear focus on understanding and mitigating climate change—a focus that structures her academic, campus, and community work—made her a clear fit for the NOAA Hollings Scholarship,” says Jolynn Parker, director of CFSA. “She is poised to make the most of the extraordinary mentorship and support that NOAA provides to Hollings Scholars.”
The 2022 NOAA-Hollings Scholarship application will open on Sept. 1. Interested students should contact CFSA for more information: 315.443.2759; firstname.lastname@example.org.