Main Navigation

Home Graduate Fellows

Graduate Fellows

"The GCSC effectively brought me to the University of Utah. My advisor's affiliation, the financial support, as well as the promise of interdisciplinary training were simply too good to pass up. I have been elated by the opportunity to dive into collaborative, interdisciplinary work, and even more appreciative of the passionate community within the GCSC."

- Chris Zajchowski, GCSC Fellow

The GCSC First Year Fellowship has helped attract top students who have research interests around the broad themes of the environment and sustainability, and who seek graduate training that extends beyond the scope of a single discipline. While these students receive their degrees from different departments across campus, the GCSC provides interdisciplinary training experiences that will help prepare students for broad engagement and collaboration in the professional realm.

GCSC Fellow Cohorts

Meet this year's group of outstanding graduate fellows and read about their accomplishments and interests.  With additional support from the Wilkes Center for Climate Science and Policy, the 2023-24 GCSC fellows comprise our largest cohort ever.

Ebenezer Adomako-Mensah
Department of Geology & Geophysics

I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Geological Engineering from the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), Tarkwa, Ghana. My experience with water quality issues during my tenure as a Projects Director for Rotary Club of Obuasi, Ghana ignited my interest in researching the crucial aspects of water contamination. As a master's student pursuing Geological Engineering at the University of Utah, I will be working with Professor William P. Johnson on researching colloidal contaminant transport in aquatic and groundwater systems. By investigating the fate and transport of colloidal contaminants, I aim to contribute to SDG 6, ensuring the availability, protection, and sustainability of water resources. I am inspired by the potential of aquatic and groundwater systems to drive positive change and envision a future where the responsible management of water resources is a cornerstone of sustainable development.

Colleen Armstrong *
Department of Communication

Having achieved my first bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Trent University in Canada, my love of the environment is strongly rooted where Indigenous rights and the rights of Mother Earth intersect. I was able to pursue decolonial studies through my humanities degree from Brock University after this, and then my master’s degree at U.N.C. Charlotte after that. As a result, my academic focus has always been on the conflict that occurs when the environment is jeopardized on Indigenous land. Recently I have been engaged with the Fairy Creek blockade, having spent time volunteering there in 2021. Considering the epistemological differences between the colonial powers and the people native to the territory, I strive to tell the stories of the people who live these conflicts with the help of Dr. Chris Ingraham and Dr. Danielle Endres. I work to decolonize academia, and to show how people can tell the story of the land in different ways – particularly during times of civil unrest and climate emergency.

Sam Bagge *
Department of Geology & Geophysics

Sam Bagge (she/her) graduated from The U in 2022 with Geology, Environmental Studies, and Geography degrees. She’s spent the past year and a half guiding and running rivers in the desert southwest. She is returning this fall to get her Master’s in geology studying her favorite whitewater section, Cataract Canyon (Colorado River), with Dr. Cari Johnson. Working alongside the Moab-based nonprofit Returning Rapids and the USGS, she will examine sediment cores from the Colorado River delta in Glen Canyon and work with local river runners and guides to collect widespread suspended sediment rates in the same canyon system. Her goal is to work with local government agencies and citizen groups to create an equitable and effective sediment management plan for the next phase of Lake Powell/Glen Canyon Dam.

Suraksha Bhandari *
City & Metropolitan Planning

I received a bachelor's degree in Architecture and a M.S. in Disaster Risk Management from Tribhuvan University, Nepal. Throughout my education and professional experience, I have consistently been drawn to the fields of planning and disaster risk management, and I firmly believe that effective planning serves as the bedrock for mitigating risks associated with natural disasters. As I delved deeper into my studies and career, I developed a profound interest in interdisciplinary research that addresses the challenges arising from human-environment interactions. I am particularly driven to explore sustainable approaches to combat pressing issues like climate change, wildfire and its associated disasters. As a graduate student at the University of Utah, I will be working with Dr. Divya Chandrasekhar in finding innovative ways to integrate our disaster risk management system with reliable strategies to confront new challenges such as climate change, wildfires, and droughts.

Annie Carlile *
School of Biological Sciences

After growing up here, in the beautiful valleys of Utah, and receiving my B.S. in Environmental Science from Trinity College, my love for the natural world has only continued to grow. I have spent the past few years working in the healthcare and diagnostics industry, and I am incredibly excited to be back in academia and to be a part of a cohort that aims at bridging the gap between science and policy. While earning my Ph.D. with Dr. Dave Bowling, I hope to deepen my understanding of ecology in a changing world using remote sensing and machine learning, and I am passionate about finding nature-based climate solutions. 

Headshot of RojinaRojina Haiju *
Department of Geography

I completed a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Engineering at Kathmandu University in Dhulikhel, Nepal, and earned a Master's degree in Integrated Water Resources Management from the University of Applied Science in Cologne, Germany. Under the guidance of Dr. Summer Rupper, I look forward to exploring innovative approaches to gaining a deep understanding of climate change, weather patterns, and water resources.I was drawn to Utah in part because the mountain and wetland ecosystems are similar to those in my home country of Nepal.

Taryn Harding
School of Music

I received both my Bachelor of Music with a focus in organ performance and my masters degree in Musicology with research focused on underrepresented communities within musical veins from Brigham Young University. My research interests lie in encouraging growth, outreach, and retention of individuals from underrepresented communities within the composition and theory professional fields. Working with the composition and theory departments I will be researching past efforts made towards these goals and, with Dr. Elisabet Curbelo, I hope to identify new possibilities for encouraging equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

Tegan Lengyel *
School of Biological Sciences

Being surrounded by the Wasatch mountain range from a young age led to my interest in environmental studies. After spending time working in various labs and falling in love with research, I chose to pursue graduate studies after completing a bachelor's in biology at the University of Utah. Dr. William Anderegg’s lab has proven to be the perfect place for me to explore my interests; I plan to investigate the effects of climate change on forest health and biodiversity and look forward to working with the GCSC cohort.

Alyssa McGrath *
Department of Anthropology

I received my MS degree at The George Washington University’s Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology (CASHP), where my interest in the intersection of human evolution and ecology began. During my master's degree, I worked on paleoecological research in Eastern Africa. As I begin my doctoral research with Dr. Tyler Faith at the University of Utah, I plan to investigate the impacts of climate change and human impacts on past large mammal extinction events in South Africa. I hope that an improved understanding of past extinction events will contribute towards conservation efforts and policy decisions aiming to sustain biodiversity into the future.

Ishmael Medina headshotIshmael Medina *
Department of Anthropology

I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Utah, where I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Anthropology with an emphasis in Archaeological Science. Following my bachelor's degree, I continued my academic journey in the Department of Anthropology and obtained a Master of Science. During my postgraduate studies, I dedicated my research efforts to reconstructing Utah's Indigenous maize farming niche and exploring the intricate relationships between farmers and their local ecology. With the guidance and support of my advisor, Dr. Brian Codding, I plan to expand this project to encompass the entirety of the continental U.S. By doing so, I hope to gain insights into how past farmers adapted to climate change, which can provide valuable lessons for addressing future climate challenges.

Hannah Meier headshotHannah Meier *
School of Biological Sciences

I earned a B.A. in biology with a focus on philosophy from Reed College in 2021. Post-graduation, I worked as a research assistant studying the effects of thermal acclimation on phytoplankton populations. My upcoming research under Dr. Jody Reimer explores the influence of anthropogenic climate change on the Great Salt Lake, focusing on how populations respond to rising salinity levels.


Kaylee Molan headshotKaylee Molan *
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering

Growing up I constantly heard climate change being discussed on the news and knew from a very young age I was passionate about making positive environmental changes and also had a strong interest in science, mathematics, and design. Following this passion, I graduated this past May from the University of New Hampshire with a B.S. in Environmental Engineering and will now be pursuing an M.S. in Environmental Engineering. I will be working with Dr. Emily Marron, broadly focusing on wastewater reuse. I am excited to work on a project that will help protect the environment and public health, as well as contribute to better management of our water resources!

Christine Rumsey headshotChristine Rumsey *
Department of Geology & Geophysics

I received a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Wyoming and a M.S. in environmental engineering from Utah State University.  Since then, I’ve worked for the U.S. Geological Survey for the past nine years as a hydrologist studying a diverse set of topics, including groundwater discharge to streams, salinity trends in surface and groundwaters, and nutrient and salt cycling in Great Salt Lake.  As a PhD student at the University of Utah, I will be working with Dr. Brenda Bowen to study how water quality and water availability relate to habitat type and productivity in saline lake ecosystems.

Rebecca Senft headshotRebecca Senft *
School of Biological Sciences

I received my BS in Plant Biology from Kennesaw State University, where my interest in ecological research began. During my undergraduate degree, I worked on several projects that explored anthropogenic change's impact on plant physiology and communities. In my graduate studies, I plan to work with Dr. Luiza Aparecido to investigate how global change stressors, such as heat and drought, affect the local hydrological cycle and carbon balance of plants across the Great Salt Lake Valley. Understanding how local forests function under changing climate is essential for the development of sustainable mitigation actions that will lead to environmental cooling and higher water availability. This work will include interdisciplinary collaborations to ensure accessible and manageable recommendations result from the findings of my work.

Jiwoo Seo headshotJiwoo Seo *
Department of Geography

After graduating from the department of geography at Kyung Hee University in South Korea, I'm interested to develop optimal solutions by modeling and simulating social problems that are closely connected to our communities. My biggest goal during my master's program is to be able to make predictions of the future based on computing technology. I will focus on replicating reality by 3D modeling with drones and simulating the movement of objects, including humans, in a reality-based virtual space. Computing-based simulations, such as performing best-path search simulations in buildings in disaster situations such as fires or modeling the spread of virus particles in confined spaces, will be an extension of my past work based on GIS computing. With the advice and teachings of Dr. Alexander Hohl, I will help solve the problems our society faces with these methodologies.

Cambria White headshotCambria White *
Department of Atmospheric Sciences

I received my Bachelor’s degree in Geography from North Carolina Central University where I developed a deep appreciation for the intricate interplay between Earth's physical systems. Through being exposed to the many branches of Geography in my undergraduate years, I found my inspiration to study Atmospheric Science. As a graduate student in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences under the guidance of Dr. Derek Mallia, I look forward to studying land-atmosphere interactions and how anthropogenic actions can influence air quality, climate, and weather. I also look forward to using my interests in photography and communication to share research findings through multiple forms of visual media.

Ben Williamson headshotBen Williamson *
Department of Geography

I’m a doctoral student in Geography, with interests in human geography, environmental politics, technology, and interdisciplinarity. Before returning to graduate school, I was the Executive Director of a Wyoming-based non-profit focused on supporting innovative social and ecological research. Prior, I received a Bachelor’s degree in Ecology from the University of Montana and a Master of Environmental Management degree from the Yale School of the Environment. As a PhD student with Dr. Matt Fry, I’ll be studying the extent to which digital technologies lead to better equity and ecological outcomes in urban forestry contexts. My research will focus on the intersection of environmental change, knowledge production, and emerging technologies.


*GCSC/Wilkes fellows aim to pursue research specifically related to climate science and/or policy.