Leslie Nguyen
Leslie Nguyen

To-Nhu “Leslie” Nguyen, student in the School of Marine and Environmental Affairs (SMEA), has been selected by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) for the Next Generation Fellowship, an opportunity that gives financial and academic support to Earth system science students from historically underrepresented groups. Nguyen was selected as the program’s public policy fellow.

“I am pleased to welcome this year’s cohort of fellows,” said UCAR President Antonio Busalacchi. “As we move into the fifth year of the UCAR Next Generation Fellowship, I am proud to witness how each cohort brings their unique passion and vision to our organization and the greater Earth system science community. Our field benefits greatly from the diverse perspectives and experiences of these rising scientists and I look forward to seeing what the 2021 fellows will accomplish.”

UCAR will support the three fellows with two years of graduate school funding. The fellows will also receive professional development and experience through summer internships with UCAR and the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which is managed by UCAR on behalf of the National Science Foundation.

Nguyen was working as an air quality consultant in her hometown of Houston, Texas, when Hurricane Harvey made landfall and destroyed her childhood home. As an air quality expert, Nguyen had already witnessed firsthand how public policies impact human health and welfare, but she points to Harvey as a turning point in her career. After that event, Nguyen was inspired to return to school and study how implementing technical solutions can help protect the future of the planet against the impacts of climate change. “Hurricane Harvey catalyzed my interest in the ocean, and I looked for ways to explore marine affairs in my job,” said Nguyen.

Now Nguyen is pursuing a master’s degree at SMEA and hopes to use her professional and personal experiences to design policies that will help coastal communities build resiliency against extreme weather events. “My past experiences have helped me gain a better understanding of environmental regulations and the impacts of human activities on our planet,” said Nguyen. “The Next Generation Fellowship will provide firsthand experience on how scientific policy and advocacy work in the real world.”

Nguyen’s public policy fellowship will bring her to work with UCAR staff in Washington, D.C., where she will learn how to help translate scientific research and knowledge into applicable policies. Nguyen holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Rice University and received a regional award for her participation in the Society of Women Engineers in 2014.