McNair Program at Concord Helps Geology Student

For Immediate Release: 
Jul 05 2006

McNair Program at Concord Helps Geology Student

Athens, W.Va. - Whoever said graduate school presents an individual with unimaginable opportunity must have had Melissa Chipman in mind! Since completing her bachelor’s degree in geology from Concord College (now University) in 2004, Ms. Chipman, originally from Princeton, has embarked on an amazing career as a graduate student in the geology department at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Campus life at such a large university seemed a little overwhelming initially; however, world-renowned guest lecturers, top-notch entertainment, and students from a variety of belief systems created an ideal setting for personal and professional growth.

The first semester of Ms. Chipman’s coursework signaled the beginning of yet another adventure - Alaska. Her thesis affords her the privilege of spending summers in breathtaking southwest Alaska studying climatic change. She’s particularly interested in how human-induced climate change impacts glacial and interglacial events. According to Ms. Chipman, “Working head to head with other scientists like Dr. Feng Sheng Hu is quite an education! I’ve benefited tremendously from their on-the-job training.” Her research centers on the collection and chemical/physical analysis of lake sediment. Samples are painstakingly analyzed in Dr. Hu’s lab to see how the lake responded to more than 2,000 years of climatic change in the Alaskan region. More importantly, Ms. Chipman compares climatic change over the last 150 years with that of 2,000 years ago. Such ecological data has the potential to improve climatic models and aid scientists in preparing for future glacial events.

The 2006-2007 academic year caps off countless hours of field and laboratory work toward her master’s degree. In addition to completing her thesis and preparing an article for publication, Ms. Chipman plans to serve as a graduate teaching assistant. She credits the McNair Scholars Program with much of her success. “The Concord McNair experience taught me how to do research and gave me the courage to pursue my dream at UIUC. I’ve learned that the research process is basically the same regardless of the tools used. Success in graduate school revolves around figuring out how to learn instead of just being concerned with what is learned.”

The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement program awards grants to institutions of higher education for projects designed to prepare participants for doctoral studies through involvement in research and other scholarly activities. Institutions work closely with these participants through their undergraduate requirements, encourage their entrance into graduate programs, and track their progress to successful completion of advanced degrees. The goal of McNair is to increase the attainment of the Ph.D. by students from underrepresented segments of society.

For information on the McNair Program at Concord University, contact Dr. Rodney L. Klein, director, 1-304-384-6019 or