Emily Wisinski, Goldwater Scholar

Emily Wisinski, Goldwater Scholar

Michael Mercier | UAH

Emily Wisinski, an Honors student in the Department of Atmospheric and Earth Science at The University of Alabama in Huntsville, a part of The University of Alabama System, has been named a 2022 Goldwater Scholar.

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship was established in 1986 by Congress in partnership with the Department of Defense National Defense Education Programs (NDEP) to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, who served 30 years in the U.S. Senate. The undergraduate scholarship is given annually to applicants in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics to around 300 college sophomores and juniors nationwide with the goal of providing the country with a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

“I was so shocked!” the student says on hearing she’d been tapped for the award. “The scholarship is very selective, so I felt extremely proud when I found out I was chosen. The first thing I did was email all of my mentors to let them know the good news, because I wanted to share the moment with everyone who helped me through the application process! This scholarship will help my graduate school applications stand out and allow me to pursue other prestigious scholarships and fellowships. I would like to pursue a career in research, so this scholarship will help propel my career forward.”

The Goldwater Scholarship is awarded based on merit and provides up to a maximum of $7,500 per academic year. Colleges and universities are allowed to nominate only four undergraduate students annually, making it a premier award in the U.S. Wisinski credits a number of faculty at UAH in mentoring her throughout her journey.

“There have been so many individuals that have helped me reach the point I am at today,” she says. “Ryan Wade and Megan Sirbaugh have been fantastic mentors and professors during my first three years of college and always went out of their way to help me. I have learned so many valuable lessons from them both in and out of the classroom that I will carry with me forever.”

Wisinski has been working on a project with the Earth Science Branch at Marshall Space Flight Center Disasters Program since March 2020.

“Jordan Bell, who is my mentor on the project with the Disasters Team, has been one of the most influential mentors I have had,” she says. “We have been working together for almost three years, and he has pushed me to become a better person and scientist every day. I am so thankful for the opportunities he has given me on the projects we have worked on, and the support he has given me through all of the ups and downs I have faced throughout my academic career.”

The Honors student recently created a comprehensive hail damage “swath events” database covering the Great Plains and Midwest that employs remote sensing and geographic information systems. “With the completion of this database, there are multiple avenues for future work, such as developing a machine learning technique to detect swaths through an automated process, agricultural impact analysis, improvements to seasonal and subseasonal forecasting and more,” Wisinski says. “Currently, my mentor Jordan Bell and I are working on completing a manuscript for this work, which is super exciting! The Disasters Team has provided me with invaluable research experience during my undergraduate career and continually pushes me to develop into a better scientist.”

UAH’s newest Goldwater Scholar says the process of applying was daunting in itself, and wants to recognize the Honors College for its support as well.

“The Goldwater application process was very demanding, because it required lots of information and took a long time to complete the process. I would have not been successful with this scholarship if it weren't for Jennifer Staton (UAH Honors College fellowship and graduate school advisor), who has acted as a fantastic leader and mentor for me during the application cycles. I feel so grateful to have so many great mentors at UAH who continue to support me and push me to grow.”

Last fall Wisinski was awarded the nationally competitive National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hollings Scholarship, and as a result was able to go on an internship at the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) in Seattle, WA.

“I worked with the Ocean Climate Stations team on a project that focuses on comparing data from Saildrones, TAO (Tropical Atmosphere Ocean) mooring, and the NOAA/NCEP modified Coupled Forecast System v2 model outputs, with an emphasis on surface currents,” she says. “These findings will be able to guide future tropical Pacific field campaigns at the Eastern edge of the Tropical Pacific warm pool. Compared to my other project at UAH/MSFC, this has a completely different focus. I wanted to explore the topics of oceanography and climate modeling during this internship to see if these topics could be areas of research I would like to pursue during my graduate degree! I am really enjoying the project and the team I am working with, and feel as though I have learned so much in such a short amount of time.”

Wisinski reports her experience at UAH “has been extremely rewarding over the last three years. I have been presented with amazing opportunities and have met extremely impactful mentors and friends that have helped me grow into the person, student and scientist that I am today. UAH has a multitude of opportunities for undergraduates, which is extremely unique for a research institution. I have learned that they want to involve students in any way they can, which is fantastic for gaining research experience extremely early on! I am so thankful for everything! Also, I want to add that my family has supported me through every application for internships, scholarships, fellowships etc., and have truly been my biggest supporters and cheerleaders through it all! I am so lucky to feel their constant support.”

As to her future plans, the Honors College student has the near term mapped out, but wants to leave her options open regarding the areas she might explore in the coming years.

“After I complete my bachelor's degree, I would like to pursue my Ph.D. in earth science, specifically in atmospheric science or oceanography,” Wisinski says. “Currently, my research interests are all over the place, so I am not entirely sure what I would like to pursue specifically just yet! I am so thankful that I am able to have opportunities that allow me to explore multiple different topics and areas of research within the field of Earth Science.”