UMass Boston Marine Science PhD Student Earns $72K Ford Foundation Fellowship

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Award Aimed to Increase Diversity of FacultiesKelly Luis, a PhD student in marine science and technology in UMass Boston’s School for the Environment and an IGERT fellow, has won a $72,000 Ford Foundation Fellowship, which will allow her to focus on researching the clarity of our ocean waters and her goal of becoming a professor.

Through the fellowship program, the Ford Foundation aims to increase the diversity of college faculties and increase the number of professors who can and will use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students. This year, 125 scholars were awarded fellowships; Luis, who is Hawaiian, was the only person from a UMass campus to receive the award.

“All throughout college I never encountered a native Hawaiian or native scholar in sciences, specifically in oceanography, and to think that someone thought that I had the potential to share my perspective, it’s unbelievable,” Luis said. “To be acknowledged and to be supported, I don’t really have words for it still.”

The award means Luis will have funding for the duration for her PhD. She is receiving $24,000 a year for three years.

Luis studies coastal ocean color remote sensing, meaning she looks at satellite images.

“Growing up as a kid in Hawaii, there were a lot of slow-moving satellites that you could see, but I never gathered until I got to college that they were actually collecting information,” Luis said. “What is really cool is that all these images are free, and when you are piecing them together you can start to gain information about the environment. I start to piece these images together and then I see if there’s a story among the satellite images.”

For one of her current projects, Luis is looking at water clarity across the New England coast and working with citizen science organizations, getting their water clarity …

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