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Christopher Kelly ’13 is well on his way to becoming a paleoclimatologist.

Chris Kelly ’13 goes over research results with Professor Kira Lawrence in Van Wickle Hall.

Chris Kelly ’13 goes over research results with Professor Kira Lawrence in Van Wickle Hall.

He has studied ancient algae preserved in deep sediment of the south Atlantic Ocean, analyzed a century’s worth of western tropical Pacific coral growth rates, and looked in the beachrock of the subtropical wave-dominated coast of eastern South Africa for evidence of sea level fluctuations over the past 10,000 years.

And now Kelly, a geology and international affairs graduate, has been awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, worth $30,000 a year. Three other graduates received honorable mention for the fellowship: Maria Liberti ’13, biology; Jessica Counihan ’10, chemistry; and Victoria Corbit ’13, neuroscience.

Kelly will use the fellowship to pursue a Ph.D. in geological sciences at Brown University starting this fall. He also hopes to earn a master’s degree at Brown in a field such as environmental management, education, or policy.

Kelly plans to conduct geosciences research in tropical or subtropical regions. In the next few years he expects that his research will take him to locations such as Baja California, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Indonesia.

“By better understanding climate dynamics of the past, we as Earth system scientists can better understand the climate system in the present day and possibly shed light on future climate change, both natural and anthropogenic, or human-induced,” Kelly says.

Most recently, Kelly was a Fulbright research student in the geology department of University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

At Lafayette, he explored climate change in the south Atlantic Ocean with Kira Lawrence, associate professor of geology and environmental geosciences, and received a student fellowship to participate in the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Woods Hole, Mass.

“I was amazed that geoscience could inform us about past climates and environments, and I remember quite a few occasions in her lab where I was completely spellbound.  It was Kira’s ceaseless enthusiasm, research prowess, ability to elucidate complex concepts, and unwavering support of me that has propelled me on this career path,” he says.

See a list of recent Lafayette recipients of national and international scholarships and fellowships for undergraduate and post-graduate study

For information on applying for scholarships and fellowships, contact Julia A. Goldberg, associate dean of the College, (610) 330-5521.

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