Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Undergraduate Research Scholars Program alum wins National Science Foundation fellowship

May 19, 2020

By Emily Castelazo

Chloe Whicker, an alum of the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP), has been awarded a prestigious National Science Foundation graduate research fellowship.

Photo courtesy of Chloe Whicker.

Whicker is pursuing a Ph.D. in Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering at the University of Michigan. Her research proposal involves incorporating the analysis of darkly pigmented algae that grow on the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet into Earth System Models to improve estimates of how future ice melt will contribute to sea-level rise. 

The URSP was Whicker’s introduction to climate science research. As a second-year student in 2016, she was paired with Professor Aradhna Tripati (associate professor and faculty director of the Center for Diverse Leadership in Science) and became part of a research team using geology to study California’s climate during the last global ice age.

“The URSP program really sparked my interest in climate science research and gave me the tools I needed to become a successful research scientist,” Whicker said.

As part of the curriculum, Whicker learned the foundations of research, such as how to design a research project and poster presentations, and wrote her first research papers. Through the program and her work alongside Professor Tripati, Whicker said she realized that she enjoyed research and decided to be a project consultant for the URSP program the following year.

As a project consultant, Whicker said she developed skills in project management and expanded her own abilities in research and collaboration. “Both roles taught me a lot about being a successful scientist and pushed me to pursue a graduate degree in climate science,” Whicker said. 

As her undergraduate career at UCLA continued, Whicker went on to become involved with other climate science research projects. She also worked alongside Professors Jasper Kok and Rong Fu in the Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences department, Professor Kevin Njabo in collaboration with the Congo Basin Institute and Taylor Guitars, and John Reager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. 

Applications are open until June 1, 2020 to join the 2020-2021 cohort of the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge Undergraduate Research Scholars program. Learn more.