College of Agricultural Sciences junior named Hollings Undergraduate Scholar

Kelly Jedrzejewski
July 03, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jessica Briggs, a junior in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, received the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship this spring.

The Hollings Scholarship program is designed to provide students with experience in NOAA-related science, research, technology, policy, management and educational activities. The award is given to rising juniors for their junior and senior years and includes two years of academic assistance and a summer internship. During the summer between their junior and senior years, students complete a mandatory internship at one of the agency’s research offices.

Briggs, of Erie, who is majoring in environmental resource management with a focus in water science, will learn her options for the location of the internship in October. She explained that she will visit the site over winter break, then start her internship next summer. Briggs hopes to be placed at a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration facility on the West Coast.

While still in high school, Briggs discovered the program on the agency’s website while looking into other scholarships. She kept the scholarship in the back of her mind, but a visit to a National Weather Service office with another internship pushed her to apply.

“They actually had a NOAA scholar working in their office, and interacting with her rekindled my interest in applying,” Briggs said.

Alongside transcripts and resume, applicants are required to complete an essay on their research goals, future plans, and how they relate to the agency’s mission. Briggs said 700 students from across the country applied to the program; 125 Hollings scholars were selected this year, including five other Penn State students.

“The monetary aspect of the scholarship definitely relieves some financial pressure,” she said. “I would love to work for an organization like this in the future, so this internship is an exciting opportunity to get experience working at NOAA while doing my own research.”

Jessica Briggs in lab

Jessica Briggs, a Schreyer Honors College student and an Ag Advocate, is minoring in chemistry and geographic information science.

IMAGE: Penn State

In addition to the other benefits, the agency gives its interns funding to attend two scientific conferences, during which they present the outcome of their research.

“Not only will I get to present my work to my colleagues at the administration, but I’ll also get to present my work to other people in the scientific community,” Briggs said. 

Robert Shannon, associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering, Briggs' academic and honors adviser, has seen her intellect, spirit and drive to be a future leader in the environmental science field.

"Her selection as a NOAA Hollings Scholar is a natural progression of her passion to conduct research in these areas," Shannon said. "And the scholarship will be incredibly beneficial toward helping her accomplish her goals.”

A Schreyer Honors College student and an Ag Advocate, Briggs is minoring in chemistry and geographic information science. She noted that her ultimate career goal is to focus on water quality research, either in the public sector or in academia.

Briggs just returned from a study-abroad trip to Sweden with the environmental resource management program. During the two-week visit, the students learned about the Baltic Sea and compared it with the Chesapeake Bay, which is a focus of study for many of her fellow students.

“Although we don’t always hear about it, so many of the issues that we face with the Chesapeake Bay are also problems within the Baltic,” she said. “During the trip, we learned a lot about ways Sweden is working to restore and maintain the sea.”

At the end of the trip, students gave their own recommendations for addressing issues that impact both the Chesapeake and the Baltic. They also talked about how the U.S. and Sweden could learn from each other’s methods of conservation.

“Penn State, and in particular the College of Ag Sciences and the environmental resource management program, gives you so much support in whatever you want to do,” Briggs said. “I would not be able to complete all my minors and have time to do research if it wasn’t for the support our advisers and the faculty give us. They want you to succeed and are willing to put in the time and effort to help you reach your goals.”

During her free time, Briggs is a member of Penn State’s club water polo team. She has played the sport since high school and is involved in THON through the club. She encourages her fellow students to get involved in anything that interests them, whether that be research or sports.

She advises other students — if they have an idea for research or see something they want to pursue — not to be afraid to act on it and get involved.

"The worst thing anyone is going to tell you is 'no,'" she said. "But if you never reach out, you never know what you could be missing.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 03, 2019