ACCESS: The Invisible Scaffolding

ACCESS: The INVISible scaffolding

June 13, 2024
Above: Audrey Glende

“I think teaching people that it’s okay to need breaks, to not know what’s next, to give room to learn and change is the most important thing to build an accepting environment like that.”

Transitioning from high school to college can be challenging in ideal circumstances but at the height of the Covid pandemic? Audrey Glende was forced to leap into the next chapter of her life by staying still, stuck at home. There were so many possible opportunities to pursue; her life had given her interests in everything from math and physics to visual arts and piano composition, just to name a few. But which to choose? 

And more importantly, how does one make an educated decision when all the information is funneled through a Zoom call?

Amid this chaos she was introduced to the ACCESS Scholars Program, a first-year community committed to providing students with all the help they need to make academic goals, connect to mentors, and develop the leadership skills they need to excel. Now instead of committing a semester to a path that she might regret later, a summer cohort could briefly introduce her to various fields. With any luck that should provide some deeper context for a wiser decision.

What she received was more than she could have ever hoped for.

A Broader Perspective

Like so many students Glende entered higher education after years of being asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The classic pressure of narrowing down your life goals before college begins. But ACCESS understands that this can be a challenging question to answer without real-world experience, and as such provides it in spades. 

Encouraged to start as broadly as possible Glende gravitated towards physics, treating it as a toolset that could be used in whatever field she ended up in. Working with the ACCESS team, who facilitated her placement in a physics research lab during her freshman year, she secured critical experience related to what a job in STEM looks. This before spending years pursuing it. She was brought into a cohort of dozens of students from all walks of life, all asking the same questions she was, and together they moved forward with confidence. For Glende, a math major would join physics, with a philosophy of science major following soon after.

Reflecting on her path, Glende describes, “It was like I’ve taken a winding road through college, where instead of feeling like I’m working towards something — realizing it’s not for me and being forced to turn back — I’m always moving forward. I could slowly ease from one area to the next because of that advice to stay broad and stay general while I explore. It makes me feel more confident. Now I can narrow things down going into grad school applications.”

And thanks to this approach, Glende is fast approaching the completion of a triple major with honors. She works in the Deemyad Lab studying condensed matter in regard to crystals. The social system her cohort provided still holds strong to this day. And looking back on it all, she is amazed by how many fantastic things she’s been able to experience thanks to the guidance she received in ACCESS. “It's like an invisible scaffolding, supporting students in ways they would never know they needed otherwise.” 

Audrey Glende, a 2023 Goldwater Scholar, now mentors in the ACCESS program herself, eager to give back however she can, to help future students feel that same support and to experience that same success that she did. 

By Michael Jacobsen

2024 Convocation Student Speaker: Dua Azhar

2024 Convocation Student SPeaker: Dua Azhar

May 2, 2024

Above: Dua Azhar (left) with Swoop (Buteo jamaicensis) dressed appropriately for the lab in PPE.

On May 2 physics graduate Dua Azhar spoke at the College of Science's 2024 convocation ceremony staged at the Huntsman Center. Her complete remarks are below.

Thank you, Dean Bandarian for the introduction. I am honored to speak today before the deans, faculty, family and friends, and of course Class of 2024, congratulations!

We’re all here today because of our love for the sciences. I know I've always been drawn to the mysteries of the natural world, from the universe to the human brain, all the way down to quantum mechanics. That rush of excitement and ideas that comes when reaching towards that you don’t understand keeps me motivated. So, it would make sense that I am here today graduating with a degree in physics. But if you told high school me I’d be doing that, I’d probably burst out laughing.

What I’ve learned these past few years is that there is a caveat to deciphering these mysteries because, as Cillian Murphy’s character says in the film Oppenheimer, “theory will take you only so far.” You see, in quantum mechanics, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle states that it’s impossible to know all information about a particle. If you think this drives scientists crazy, you’re absolutely right. The past four years for all of us have also been filled with uncertainty, and I don’t know about you, but I also went a bit crazy. Yet, I and all of you are here today to celebrate the chances we took and the perseverance through the uncertainties that have come with this journey.

Dua Azhar gives student speech at 2024 Convocation.

For many of us here today, this is our first proper graduation – the last time we gathered for graduation, it was on Zoom and in parking lots. The global pandemic also didn’t stop after those make-do send-offs. However, we all decided to continue our educational journeys despite that uncertainty. Like many of you, I struggled during that time. Despite the difficulties, it was also beautiful because we came together to help each other push through it all. I know for a fact that I would not have been able to go through that time without the mentorship and support of the faculty, who went out of their way to not only accommodate all of us but also provide individual support, in and outside of classes. For example, while I was uncertain about my studies, it was because of the faculty and the college’s resources that I was able to forge my educational path, combining my interests in neuroscience with physics. I know many of you could share similar stories, because together, we persevered through uncertain times to reach this day.

And we didn’t get here alone. We all have loved ones that have supported us and set us on our paths. In my case, I cannot take credit for any of this without acknowledging the uncertainties my parents faced as immigrants. Exactly 30 years ago, being one of the few Pakistanis in Utah at the time, my father graduated from the U in mechanical engineering. His studies and career path influenced my own, and it was through both of my parent’s sacrifices in adapting to a new country that I am here today.

Watching my parents and the talented individuals around me, I have learned the value of taking chances amidst uncertainty. My parents took a chance for a better opportunity for our family. WE all took the crazy chance to go to college during a pandemic! And I took a chance on the sublime complexity that is physics.

As we leave here today, we’ll be entering anew into a world that is now especially uncertain and scary. But we can come together again to push through it. Some of us graduates might not know where we will go next, but there is a beauty to that uncertainty. It will bring the excitement, the collaboration, and the knowledge needed for us, together, to solve the problems and mysteries that keep us up at night. So sure, theory might only take you so far, but theorize anyway. Then take a chance, because you won’t know until you try.

>> HOME <<

Biologist Eron Powell: Student Commencement Speaker

shaping students into people of excellence

April 29, 2024
Above: Eron Powell

For the 2024 University of Utah student commencement speaker Eron Powell, a love of learning is one of the most important things he is taking away from his time at the U.



“Outside of college and into the future, I hope to always be able to educate myself,” Powell said. “We are never complete people. We have to keep working on ourselves. That is the fun of living—learning to be a better person who is more kind, more compassionate and more caring.”

Twenty-six-year-old Powell grew up in Emmett, Idaho, with his seven siblings. Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in biology, he was drawn to the U because of the school’s research opportunities and the prestige of the U’s College of Science.

Though Powell faced many challenges during his first year of college, from health issues to adapting to rigorous course work to finding his place among strangers, there is a lot he will miss about being a U student.

“As we approach commencement, I’m sadder than I thought I would be,” Powell said. “I thought I’d be so excited, but I really loved my experience at the U. So it’s hard that it’s ending.”


Read the full article by Maitlyn Mortensen in @ The U. 

The General Commencement ceremony where Powell will speak will be held on Thursday, May 2 at 6 p.m. in the Jon M. Huntsman Center. Read more about the 2024 commencement here.

Humans of the U: Brenda Payan Medina

Humans of the U: Brenda Payan Medina

April 26, 2024
Above: Brenda Payan Medina. Credit:  Harriet Richardson/University of Utah


I’ve been involved in a lot of areas that are important to me outside of my engineering degree—I’ve worked at the McCluskey Center for Violence Prevention, the Women’s Resource Center, the Center for Student Wellness and with the Utah Prison Education Project. All these positions work directly with students, which is why I decided to pursue a master’s degree in higher education at Columbia University next year.


I feel really connected to students who may be struggling, I think because of my own background as a first-generation student. Neither of my parents graduated high school and my grandparents didn’t finish elementary school. It feels like a big step for myself and my siblings to reach a point where we’re graduating college.

I applied to the U through the College of Science ACCESS Scholarship program and when I first got here, I had kind of a hard time. I literally don’t think I would’ve stayed on campus if it weren’t for the ACCESS director at the time, who really advocated for me. I was planning on transferring back home to Price because I had a whole support system down there. Here, there are definitely people willing to help you, but it’s harder to reach out when you’re used to figuring everything out your own, like I had been. I want to use what I learned to help other people have an easier experience navigating college and living away from home, because it can be super overwhelming to try to balance everything.

I’ve seen discourse on social media saying you don’t always need a college degree to succeed. But for students where education has historically not been a part of their family, I think it’s still important to pursue higher education even if it’s  inaccessible to them. It’s one of the reasons I started working with the Utah Prison Education Project and the STEM Community Alliance Program with the arts manager, where I help plan art classes and exhibitions for students in juvenile facilities. It’s really cool because a lot of the students find a drive to pursue their projects when they know their work will be shown at galleries. Working with UPEP and STEMCAP has given me a different perspective about what education looks like and what works for different people, and I’ll hopefully continue working with this population in a similar program at Columbia.

Read the rest of the story in @ The U

Goldwater Scholars 2024

Goldwater Scholars 2024

Two College of Science students awarded the prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for 2024-25

The Barry Goldwater Scholarship is a prestigious award given to undergraduate sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers. Goldwater Scholars often go on to hold distinguished research and leadership positions across many disciplines. For the 2024-2025 academic year, 438 scholarships were awarded to college students across the country. At the University of Utah, two undergraduate students have earned the honor of becoming Goldwater Scholars: Muskan Walia and Nathan Patchen.

Nathen Patchen

“Biochemistry was a great way for me to combine my love of biology and chemistry and understand not only how things work, but why,” says Nathan Patchen about what motivated him to pursue research in that field. Patchen was awarded the Goldwater Scholarship for his work in Yang Liu’s lab, an assistant professor of biochemistry at the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine

Patchen describes his research as broadly being focused on DNA damage repair. He says “[w]e have access to revolutionary gene editing tools that, when used in conjunction with advanced imaging techniques, allow us to explore how cancer cells undergo DNA damage repair as never seen before. Personally, I am doing this by implementing a modified CRISPR-Cas9 that allows us to capture time-resolved images after damage and then produce data about the kinetics of repair.” 

After graduating from the U, Patchen hopes to pursue an MD/PhD to practice medicine while continuing his research on gene editing and aging. Outside of his time in the lab, he enjoys being active through swimming, biking, and running as he trains for an IRONMAN 70.3 in St. George, Utah in May. 


Muskan Walia

“Mathematics is at the cusp of interdisciplinary research” says Muskan Walia. During the College of Science ACCESS Scholars research program, she reflected on her academic interests and goals. She explains, "I wasn’t interested in studying any discipline in a vacuum or in isolation. Rather, I wanted to work on mathematics research that centered justice and informed public policy.”

The majority of Walia’s undergraduate research sprouted from her time in ACCESS where with the help of Fred Adler in the mathematics department at the College of Science, she began to adapt an epidemiological SIR model to predict the number of cells infected with SARS-CoV-2. Since then, she has created other models to further answer her questions about disease. These include a “... model of disease progression within an infected individual, a model of an antigen test, and a model of symptoms to evaluate how testing can be used to limit the spread of infection.”

“Ultimately, I want to lead a team that utilizes mathematical principles to tackle the most pressing social justice related questions of our time.” Walia is one of 57 awardees honored this year who intend to pursue research in mathematics or computer science. Besides innovating mathematical models, Walia enjoys spending time outside bird watching with her mom and gardening with her grandmother.



By Lauren Wigod
Science Writer Intern




Biology Student Stories: Bailey Landis

Biology Student Stories: Bailey Landis

April 3, 2024

by Maisy Webb

From playing the clarinet and majoring in music to finding inspiration in deciphering the As, Ts, Gs, and Cs relevant to fruit fly evolution and genetics, Bailey Landis has many interests but has dedicated his educational pursuits to biology.

The “major” shift happened when Bailey took Genetics from Nitin Phadnis. That was the moment he realized he loved biology and wanted to give research a try.

Bailey asked Phadnis if he knew of any lab openings, and the very next day he entered the research world…in the Phadnis lab! “Even though research was new to me, I was given the opportunity to jump into cutting-edge science. I immediately began investigating the genetic basis of a hybrid incompatibility between two subspecies of Drosophila.” Bailey artfully explained that “When two populations of a species are isolated from each other, they rapidly evolve [and this can] lead to speciation.” Deciphering the molecular and genetic basis of this process is the focus of the Phadnis lab.

Bailey finds the lab environment “unequivocally amazing” and  “is inspired by the motivation and drive of his peers in the lab.” He says, “Whenever you are doing something, people want you to do well ... and are not hoping for your downfall. So I have gotten courage knowing when I am presenting or doing something scary that people are hoping to see me succeed.”

Bailey has gained an appreciation for the collaborative nature of science, receiving mentorship and mastering new techniques with support from two other biology professors, Kent Golic and Clayton Dale. As it goes in research, things often don’t work and you always have to be on the lookout for something unexpected, Bailey shared. “I became frustrated that my hard work had yielded no results and began doubting whether the X-ray machine was working correctly. I examined the neuroblasts of mutagenized males, looking for fragmented chromosomes to ensure that the genetic material was being irradiated. ... My irradiation approach was simple and reliable [yet] lacked efficiency, relying on randomly mutating a single gene out of over 13,000. I felt like I was waiting for an accident and wanted my approach to be more precise. I returned to the drawing board, searching for a more efficient way to identify this gene. I pivoted to a targeted deletion system using CRISPR/Cas-9.”

Bailey’s enthusiasm and dedication has led to an evolution in his knowledge, which will definitely give him a head start when he begins his PhD in biology, at the U, in the fall of 2024.

Bailey is from Chico, California. When he’s not in the lab, you can find Bailey indulging his many other interests from drawing and painting, fly fishing, working on his jiu jitsu, snowboarding, and cooking lots of different dishes!


This article originally appeared at the School of Biological Sciences

>> HOME <<

Mining friends along the way

Friends along the way


The real mining was the friends we made along the way.

February 22, 2024
^ Ian Sutcliffe (left) and Alex Carhart at the Mining Dept. Open House, 2023.

Alex Carhart at work, Kennecott Utah Copper.

The Mining Open House last fall was an introduction to the public, including students looking for a major, but for two seniors in the University of Utah's Department of Mining Engineering, it was the final year of a harrowing undergraduate career. Harrowing not because of the rigorous training in Vulcan and Python software; or the upper-division math that (with one additional class) would have given them a minor; and it wasn't because of the summer internships in various cool mining environments simpatico with the on-boarding to mining engineering they were more than eager to engage.

No. It was because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We only had one mining class in-person the first semester," says Ian Sutcliffe. "It was rough." It took two years before his cohort was able to go on their first field trip to a mine, which usually happens as a second semester experiential.

For Alex Carhart, who is also a senior, getting ready to graduate this year, it was not only the pandemic that proved to be a hurdle but changing from one major in the College of Engineering to mining engineering in the College of Science. It was in their introductory mining class that the two became fast friends, a friendship that has taken them the distance through summer internships that proved, as it seems to for undergraduates, to seal the deal.

Ian Sutcliffe at work, TATA Chemicals North America (Green River, WY)

In the case of Sutcliffe, who grew up in Murray, his first-year internship found him driving a water truck on site. This "baptism by fire" for both (Carhart also got hands-on experience driving trucks and heavy equipment) gave them on-the-ground experience that complemented their classroom training.

"I was driving the old trucks and the water truck for a good half of summer," says Sutcliffe, and I'm really glad I did because the more mining classes I've taken, the more I've enjoyed it. My first internship really got me involved."

For Carhart, who is from Anchorage, the chance to work in long-range strategic mine planning gave him experience on the other end of operations—the big picture planning and logistics. Both credit these internships, as well as the travel opportunities with the department, for cementing their passion for the field.

The chance to visit Greenland as sophomores was a pivotal experience, recalls Sutcliffe. "I was kind of bouncing around chemical engineering and then I heard about mining and decided to try that instead." For Carhart, who also traveled to a trona mine in Wyoming and a coal mine in Utah, the field trips finally happened in his junior year when pandemic restrictions began to lift.

Now, with graduation looming, both have secured jobs in their field. Sutcliffe will return to the trona mine where he interned, while Carhart has accepted a position in the graduate development program at Rio Tinto Kennecott in Salt Lake City. There he will rotate through different areas of the operation over two years to find the right fit before settling into a permanent role. But before they start work they will travel with the department to Mongolia to visit one of the largest copper mines in the world.

Their undergraduate journeys, while filled with pandemic headaches, gave them technical knowledge through software, math and geology classes, as well as critical field experience at mines and with companies. Perhaps most importantly, it allowed them to forge a lasting friendship that helped motivate them through to graduation. They also earned perspective on the industry they will soon lead.

"It's an interesting thing that might be in my lifetime—space mining," says Sutcliffe, on innovations that may come out of demand for finite resources. Both see a path forward for mining, even with increased environmental regulations, through better technology, safer autonomous equipment, and reclamation plans built into project costs. But most of all, through educated young professionals like themselves entering the field with openness, optimism and care for the planet we call home.

Outside of classes and labs, Sutcliffe and Carhart find time for fun and adventure. Sutcliffe is an avid mountain biker who has explored trails all over the state. "I have a problem. I have three bikes," he jokes. Carhart prefers downhill skiing in the winter and swimming as cross-training for an active lifestyle. Hiking and anything outdoors are passions they share.

These hobbies align with their appreciation for the natural world, and reinforce their commitment to finding the right balance of resource development and conservation as future leaders in the mining industry.



by David Pace

ACCESS: A Tale of Two Researchers

ACCESS: A Tale of Two REsearchers


The first thing Isabella Scalise noticed when she joined the 2022 ACCESS Scholars program was a feeling of empowerment. How could she not?

Surrounded by a cohort of ambitious scientists-in-training, and under the supervision of women ecstatic to help her find success in her passions, Isabella was taking a huge step in realizing her middle school dream of conducting cancer research.

Wide-eyed middle schooler

It all started with her grandpa’s colon cancer diagnosis. Isabella, a wide-eyed middle schooler at the time, was driven to learn as much as she could. She started taking a cancer and genetics class at Providence Cancer Institute during the summer and found a particular interest in precision medicine, which accounts for an individual’s genetics, environment and lifestyle when crafting a game plan to fight diseases — like cancer. This interest only grew after starting at the U when another family member started experiencing resistance to therapies targeted to treat her cancer.

When it came time to join a lab, an integral part of the ACCESS experience, the Kinsey lab at the Huntsman Cancer Institute made perfect sense.

“The scientific questions being pursued in the Kinsey lab deeply resonate with me,” says Isabella, now a sophomore studying honors biology with minors in mathematics and chemistry. “We work to overcome primary resistance mechanisms to targeted treatments.”

And who was waiting there with open arms, ready to mentor Isabella? A 2017 ACCESS alum.

A Life-Changing Lab

Sophia Schuman describes her ACCESS experience as “eye-opening.” She discovered the program while searching for scholarships and found herself spending the summer of 2017 with a cohort of 24 women, already passionate about Sophia’s interests.

Isabella (left) with Sophia, in the lab together. ^^ Banner photo above: Sophia (left) with Isabella.

"You got to go to college early, live on campus, get exposed to all the sciences. I applied immediately, and I was so excited to hear back,” Sophia explains. “It was the driving force, the reason that I came to the U. I didn't have issues finding my classes on the first day of school because I had already been here, and it felt like this was home a little bit.”

Sophia wasn’t placed in the Kinsey lab, but she says Conan Kinsey, MD, PhD, principal investigator of the lab, found her and “changed my life forever.”

Like Isabella, Sophia had a personal connection to cancer as she had watched someone close to her fight pancreatic cancer. Sophia was amazed by how well the patient’s body held up during the experience, which piqued her own interest in cancer research and drew her to the lab.

“The Kinsey lab brought me into so many different opportunities,” she continues, “but it also taught me so much about how to think, how to be a professional in the industry.”

Part of that professional experience included mentoring, which is where Isabella comes into the equation.

A holistic understanding

The pair combined their shared passion to perform research on autophagy, a primary resistance mechanism to targeted therapies for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). During this time, Isabella learned the details and mechanisms behind the procedures they performed, learned how to derive the right scientific questions from their work and even came to understand how the work they were doing fit into the big picture. Along the way, Sophia would send Isabella educational materials that helped her develop a holistic understanding of the science.

“I always felt comfortable asking Sophia questions. She’d always take the time to answer them very thoroughly and when I made mistakes, making sure I learned from them. I've never felt ashamed for making a mistake.”

Isabella said that working under Sophia’s guidance created a comfort in the lab, and Sophia seemed to enjoy it just as much.

“Isabella came in very interested, very teachable and obviously passionate about the work behind it. As well, it was fun having another woman in the lab. I saw a lot in her that I saw in myself. She's willing to stay until the work is done. She asked a lot of really good, intuitive questions, even from the get-go with having very basic concepts and understanding of science.”

The duo no longer works together, but they’ll always be connected by the Kinsey lab, a shared love for research, and ACCESS Scholars.

By Seth Harper

ACCESS: Margaret Call

Margaret Call: Pathfinder


Finding your path in life is rarely as simple as a 90-minute coming-of-age movie might suggest. It’s often slow, requires a good deal of trial and error, and can persist deep into the stages of a person’s life.



Margaret Call found herself facing this age-old dilemma while sitting in an advisor’s office in junior high. They went through the motions, discussing Margaret’s interests and ambitions, until landing on STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics.) Her advisor suggested ACCESS Scholars, a first-year community, research and scholarship program committed to advancing gender equity in STEM at the University of Utah. The suggestion stuck around in Margaret’s mind until senior year of high school when she decided to apply with her eye on picking chemistry as her major on a pre-med track.

As a research-oriented person, Margaret found the opportunities ACCESS offered appealing, even if she wasn’t going to end up under the research umbrella. Keeping her options opened ended up paying off.

The ACCESS Experience

ACCESS kicks off the summer before classes start with a two-week live-in component. Students learn what the College of Science and the U have to offer while getting to know their cohort. For Margaret, this was the highlight of the whole experience.

“The chance to explore the university campus for a couple of weeks helped me to feel comfortable as a student in knowing where I was and what I was doing,” said Margaret. “It was through the summer portion that I made my best friends in college. There is honestly no substitute for making friends in a space where you have common interests and experiences. I know that they have my back when things are difficult, and they understand even the parts related to being a woman in a male-dominated field.”

Beyond finding a community, Margaret found her path through education. A capstone project and environmental science curriculum helped her discover a passion for climate science and policy.

“The summer coursework changed my entire college pathway. I would never have arrived in the geosciences without it. The space to explore different fields that I hadn’t wasn’t aware of in a low-risk environment allowed me to consider pathways I didn’t even know were available.”

18 Months Later

Margaret, now a sophomore in geoscience and geophysics, and over a year removed from the summer component of ACCESS, has dived deep into the world of research. She joined Pete Lippert’s lab in the Utah Paleomagnetic Center, working on an air quality project. The project, an “intersection between atmospheric science, climate science, and geoscience,” as Margaret puts it, works to “understand if biomagnetic monitoring techniques could be used to accurately measure particulate matter in the air.”

It's a sensitive process that can detect major inversion events as well as the difference in air quality in locations 20 feet from each other.

In addition to this research, Margaret stays busy with her work as a Science Ambassador, giving tours to prospective students looking to find their own path, and helping produce the Talking Climate Podcast hosted by the Wilkes Center for Climate Science & Policy.

A Bright Future

“My ultimate ambition, at the moment, is to become some form of researcher,” said Margaret. “Whether that’s through a more academic pathway or through a different laboratory setting, I would really like to eventually be studying climate through a geological lens.”

Her current interest is in the details that landscapes and rocks hold about Earth’s past climate. It’s a path that she credits ACCESS in helping her find.

“ACCESS was one of the single most important things to my success in college. I have made so many incredible connections through the program, to students, professors, mentors, and more that will shape the resources that I am able to access. It helped me to remember to keep an open mind when considering pathways, and now, three majors later, I think I’ve finally found it.”

Perhaps finding your path life is a constant, never-ending journey we’re all on. Thanks to ACCESS Scholars, Margaret got the jumpstart her future needed.


by Seth Harper

Interested in applying to the ACCESS Scholars program at the University of Utah? Click here

Humans of the U: Sadie Dunn

“I am currently majoring in atmospheric sciences. I just love weather. I’ve loved it since I was probably in kindergarten. So growing up, I always knew that was what I was going to study in college. When I was looking at colleges, I was kind of shocked that the University of Utah is the only school in Utah that offers an atmospheric sciences degree. So that’s how I ended up here.

The For Utah Scholarship has been an amazing opportunity for me because honestly, I would not have been able to afford college on my own. This scholarship offered me the amazing opportunity to come and study here in the department I want to be in.

I am from Chicago and I grew up with really severe summer storms in the Midwest, so I guess that’s what really fostered my love for weather. Then I moved to Utah when I was 13 and just kept loving weather. There’s a ton of snow out here and crazy windstorms which sparked my curiosity.

All throughout junior high and high school, I knew studying weather was my goal. So when I was a senior in high school, we had an internship class and I got to intern at ABC 4 news in their weather department, which was cool. That was definitely the moment when I was like, ‘This is real. I’m working towards this and this is the goal.’ So it’s really exciting to take this love I’ve had since I was little and turn it into a career.

While interning at a broadcast station was fun, it’s not something that interests me as a career. But my atmospheric sciences degree can take me a bunch of different places. It offers research opportunities with organizations like the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). You can also work with private organizations. There are serious meteorologists in every field, which I think is one of the coolest parts about this job.

I’m still kind of feeling out what I want to do. It’s a STEM major and it’s very math- and physics- and chemistry-heavy. I consider myself to be smart, but I am not a natural in those courses. So I don’t think research is something I will do. I am really passionate about climate change, so I’m looking more into the field of sustainability.

Since I grew up with a love of severe weather, I would also love to be able to get a career that helps with the effects of those disasters, because it’s hard with hurricanes and tornadoes. You can’t stop them. They are going to hit and destroy everything. So I would love to find ways to lessen the effects of those or find better ways to prepare the communities.”

—Sadie Dunn, recipient of the For Utah Scholarship

This story originally appeared in @TheU.