UA Hollings Scholars Lead the Way as the Best and Brightest

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – From analyzing environmental damage of DDT to developing warning systems for evacuation zones, The University of Alabama’s best and brightest are not only excelling in the classroom but also improving the society we live in.

In 2006, four UA students were chosen as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholars. These four stellar students have made a lasting impact on the Capstone’s academic community, but with the Hollings Scholars 10-week internship program, they have also utilized their education by taking part in hands-on experiences that demonstrate their commitment to helping others and improving our environment.

Following are short updates about their internship work and how this scholarship program has impacted their careers.

Crystal M. Lowe, a senior chemical engineering major from Dothan, has focused her education on environmental issues concerning aquatic ecosystems. As an intern with Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary in California, Lowe researched how DDT, a pesticide banned 30 years ago because of its negative impact on the environment, is still affecting aquatic ecosystems. The internship with CIMS was instrumental in allowing Lowe to improve various ecosystems through education, outreach, research and resource protection programs.

Michelle McGaha, a senior industrial engineering major from Albertville, provided technical assistance on coastal hazard services for the Pacific Islands and the Indian Ocean Region while interning in Honolulu, Hawaii. McGaha helped develop the Hazard Education and Awareness Tool, known as HEAT, and she aided in the creation of its Web site. HEAT is a template of the Tsunami Hazard Information Service, and through McGaha’s work, the HEAT system can now be used to partner with other hazard agencies to allow them to create similar Web sites for any hazard area in the world. The Hollings Scholarship not only allowed McGaha to experience the unique culture of the Hawaiian Islands and solidify her plans to pursue a master’s degree in industrial engineering, but it also provided her an opportunity to work on a global project as HEAT will benefit communities throughout the world since it can be applied for any hazardous area.

Jackson Switzer, a senior biochemistry major from Gulfport, Miss., completed his internship at NOAA’s Air Resources Laboratory Special Operations and Research Branch in Las Vegas. He learned more about the meteorological side of chemical weapons as he investigated emergency planning and response to chemical releases in the atmosphere should a chemical attack occur in the United States. Switzer is passionate about pursuing a career as a chemical weapons specialist. He wants to pursue a master’s degree in biohazardous threats and emerging infectious diseases, and then he hopes to serve his country by enhancing methods to stop the mitigation of chemical weapons.

Dylan Whisenhunt, a senior chemical engineering major from Vestavia Hills, researched new technologies that promote energy efficiency while interning at the Center for Smart Building at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. He examined the amount of heat pollution created by a ground-source heat pump and researched tools that will be used to retrofit the University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus with energy efficient lighting, ventilation and water usage. Whisenhunt explored new technologies that will prevent the effects of global warming from affecting our nation while utilizing the innovations of Green Technology to preserve the natural environment. After graduation, Whisenhunt hopes to draft environmentally relevant economic policy focused on energy conservation and the development of renewable fuels.

These students have not only proven their dedication to The University of Alabama, but they have also committed themselves to improving our environment for generations to come.

Three UA students were selected as 2007 recipients: Rachael E. Blevins of Maryville, Tenn., Ynhi Thai of Long Beach, Miss., and Kathryn G. Tippey of Tuscaloosa. Each is learning of the benefits of the Hollings Scholarship and preparing for their summer internships with NOAA.

Rachael E. Blevins, a senior double majoring in marine science and biology, is preparing for a summer internship that will allow her to help protect various aquatic ecosystems. To ensure the continued ecological stability of these aquatic environments, Blevins will intern with either the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary in California or the Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary in Washington.

Ynhi Thai, a junior chemical engineering major, will be interning at the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory’s Ocean Chemistry Division in Miami, Fla. Thai will be involved with research projects that are related to the ocean/atmosphere carbon cycle, marine and atmospheric chemistry research, and ocean and human health.

Kathryn G. Tippey, a junior double majoring in economics and mathematics, is eager to use economic and statistical analysis to impact society. Even though she has not yet decided where she will intern, Tippey plans to focus on the interactions between climate and society and researching climate trends using paleoclimate data.

Approximately 100 students are chosen nationally as Hollings Scholars, and for the third consecutive year, the University ranked among the top five universities in the nation in total number of recipients for the scholarship.


Allison Bridges, Engineering Student Writer, 205/348-3051,
Mary Wymer,

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.