Coastal experiences lead ECU’s student to prestigious scholarship
A semester studying at the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) on East Carolina University’s Outer Banks Campus launched Christine Chan’s interest in marine science and led to her receiving the Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship.
The Hollings Scholarship allows undergraduate students to increase their knowledge and skills in oceanic and atmospheric science as well as hands-on experience through a full-time, paid summer internship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The scholarship provides academic assistance of up to $9,500 per year for two years.
“I have research experience in the academic setting, but I had never had the opportunity to work on the federal or government side,” Chan said. “Through this program, I will be able to complete a summer internship at any NOAA office in the country. This will definitely allow me to gain experience working on research projects in a different setting than an academic one.”
When she stepped foot on ECU’s campus as a Brinkley-Lane Scholar, Chan was a biology major with dreams of attending medical school to become a pathologist. However, spending the spring semester of her first year along the coast at CSI opened new pathways for her.
“Studying and working at CSI for a semester helped me discover my passion for research in marine science, and I learned about the potential I have for working in this field,” she said.
In addition to adding an environmental studies major, offered through the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences multidisciplinary studies degree, Chan participated in a National Science Foundation research experience for undergraduates at the Duke University Marine Lab. There, she continued to improve her fieldwork and data analysis skills while studying the life history of loggerhead sea turtles. When she returned to ECU in the fall of her sophomore year, she began working with Rebecca Asch in the Department of Biology on the effects of ship-channel dredging on zooplankton abundance.
“All of these experiences confirmed my passion for marine science, and I knew receiving the Hollings Scholarship would make me a competitive applicant for graduate school and jobs in the future,” Chan said. “Also, all of these experiences stemmed from my time at CSI, where Dr. Reide Corbett and Dr. Paul Paris took me on with practically zero experience and taught me the basics of working in a lab and developing a research project.”
Chan credits Corbett and Paris for encouraging her to apply for the scholarship, as well as Todd Fraley, dean of the Honors College, for bringing it to her attention. She is also grateful to Tim Runyan, retired maritime studies professor from the Department of History, a prior honors professor, and a former manager of the Maritime Heritage Program within the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.
“He met with me to discuss the different opportunities that I have as a Hollings Scholar,” she said. “He also supported me throughout the application process.”
The Hollings Scholarship allows Chan to see career options with NOAA and the type of funding she may be eligible for when pursuing a graduate degree. She’s considering a doctorate in marine science with a focus on studying zooplankton and invertebrates.
“Of course, this scholarship will also provide me with an internship, in which I hope to narrow my interests and more clearly define the type of research I will pursue in future,” she said.
While the 10-week internship is exciting for Chan, she is most excited about presenting her research at scientific conferences.
“I haven’t been to a conference yet, so I am eager to be able to share my research with the scientific community, as well as hear about their research and develop connections with scientists from around the country,” she said.”
Chan encourages other students to pursue their passions without fear of rejection.
“Put your best foot forward in your essays, build connections with professors or mentors for strong letters of recommendation, and always seek out opportunities to try something new,” she said. “You never know what you can learn in any situation.”
Pirate Profile: Christine Chan