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Heinen receives NOAA Hollings Scholarship

BOONE—Laura Heinen’s passion for environmental research has garnered attention from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The sophomore geology major at Appalachian State University has received a NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship for the 2014-15 academic year.

View larger imageLaura Heinen, a sophomore geology major at Appalachian State University, has received an $8,000 NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship. Originally from Texas, Heinen now resides in Apex. The scholarship includes a paid 10-week internship at a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration facility next summer. (Photo by Jane Nicholson)

The scholarship provides an $8,000 academic scholarship plus a paid 10-week internship at a NOAA facility next summer. Heinen of Apex is a student in Appalachian’s Honors College. She will learn in August about her internship placement.

Competition for the scholarship is highly competitive. Each year about 120 students receive the scholarship out of some 900 applicants.

“The scholarship definitely will help finance my way through college next year,” she said. “I’m also really excited about the internship and how it will further my educational goals and allow me to work with a national organization conducting research in a realm that I’m interested in,” said Heinen, whose interests focus on hydrology. “It also will be good to open doors and create connections with researchers.”

In an essay written as part of the scholarship application process, Heinen stated that witnessing changes in the woodlands, streams and rivers occurring as a result of development and other human activities honed her interest in protecting ecosystems and water quality. “I turned to environmental science to find the solutions to the devastating effects of human sprawl on my woods,” she wrote. “Following this desire for change, I have pursued research, hoping to use the tools of science to seek solutions to current environmental issues.”

As a member of Assistant Professor Chuanhui Gu’s research group in Appalachian’s Department of Geology, Heinen has been investigating the impact urbanization has on hyporheic exchange and nutrient uptake in streams. During fall 2013, she worked with Gu and two students on projects related to stream quality in both urban and pristine mountain settings.

“With today’s ever-warming climate, new stresses are being placed on surface and ground water, and the effects this has on society and the environment still needs to be understood,” Heinen wrote. “NOAA has a vision for the future that focuses on resilient, healthy ecosystems and economies in the face of change. I share this vision, and through research I will understand and predict changes in aquatic ecosystems and share this knowledge with others to bring about the changes needed to keep our waters vibrant and healthy for generations to come.”

The scholarship program is designed to:

  1. Increase undergraduate training in oceanic and atmospheric science, research, technology, and education and foster multidisciplinary training opportunities;
  2. Increase public understanding and support for stewardship of the ocean and atmosphere and improve environmental literacy;
  3. Recruit and prepare students for public service careers with NOAA and other natural resource and science agencies at the federal, state and local levels of government; and
  4. Recruit and prepare students for careers as teachers and educators in oceanic and atmospheric science and to improve scientific and environmental education in the United States.

As part of the award, Heinen also will attend a NOAA Science and Education Symposium and a professional conference where she will present a poster or paper on her research.