Four students win prestigious Hollings scholarships

Rain? Snow? Sleet? Hail? No problem if you’re a Florida State University student studying meteorology or environmental science.

Four students in Florida State’s Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science are among a small roster of outstanding scholars nationwide to receive Ernest F. Hollings Scholarships.

The prestigious scholarship, sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is a two-year award that funds its scholars $8,000 per year during their junior and senior years. A summer research internship at NOAA between the junior and senior years is a key benefit of the scholarship.

The 2012-2013 Florida State recipients of the Hollings scholarship are:

  • Jessica Smith, a meteorology major from Green Cove Springs, Fla.
  • Chandler Keenan, an environmental science and policy major from Lutz, Fla.
  • Nicholas Lopez, a meteorology major from Parkland, Fla.
  • Kristen Stewart, a meteorology major from Weston, Mass.

“Four Hollings scholars in one year is a phenomenal achievement — it reflects the strength of the meteorology and environmental science programs on our campus,” said Craig Filar, the director of Florida State’s Office of National Fellowships. “Each of the four recipients has done incredible work in his or her first two years at Florida State, and I am excited to see what they accomplish in the next two years before they graduate.”

Receiving the Hollings scholarship and internship has opened up countless opportunities for Smith in the field of meteorology, she said. Not only does the award provide financial assistance for her remaining two years at Florida State but also a 10-week paid internship with the NOAA office of her choice.

Internship/research sites for scholarship recipients are located across the country and are offered through almost every department of NOAA. Students attended a weeklong orientation in May at NOAA headquarters in Silver Springs, Md. This fall, they have begun choosing research projects.

“This internship alone will give me an opportunity to further explore my interest in meteorology, primarily public education and awareness of severe weather events,” said Smith, who, when she begins her internship in the summer of 2013, will work one-on-one with a NOAA scientist, providing assistance on a research project.

Smith anticipates an internship that will help prepare her for a career “educating the public on the importance of preparedness for severe weather events” through the National Weather Service, or perhaps The Weather Channel.

“I hope to gain experience in a field of meteorology, such as forecasting or research, that I may never have considered before,” she said.

For Lopez, the Hollings award will offer him the chance to explore two passions: meteorology and computational science.

“I’m hoping that the internship next summer will push me more in either direction,” Lopez said. “It will also give me the opportunity to do the research that I’ll want to do at the time.”

Keenan, who is interested in wetlands and freshwater systems and understanding the sources and effects of chemical pollutants in those areas, is looking for projects with the Office of Habitat Conservation, within the National Marine Fisheries Service, or the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, within the National Ocean Service.

At the scholarship orientation, Keenan, along with other students, toured the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary — a site for environmental education and research on Chesapeake Bay within the National Estuarine Research Reserve. It is jointly administered by NOAA and local agencies. On the tour, students learned about how water quality and the health of wildlife in Chesapeake Bay is monitored. They even got to hold 5-month-old osprey chicks whose mother had been tagged earlier that morning.

“This would be an incredible place to intern,” Keenan said. “The Hollings Scholarship Program is the kind of opportunity I could only dream of. Through this program, I have the chance to gain hands-on experience with researchers who influence national environmental policy. I basically get to test drive what my life could be like a few years down the road.”

For more information, contact Craig Filar of the FSU Office of National Fellowships at (850) 644-7596 or