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2021 Cohort of UCAR Next Generation Fellows Announced

Graduate Student Liz Cunningham among the Earth system science students from underrepresented communities selected for prestigious UCAR program.
Liz Cunningham.jpg

Sep 23, 2021 - by Ali Branscombe

Three new students have 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. The 2021 cohort consists of Julieta F. Juncosa Calahorrano, Earth system science fellow; Liz Cunningham, diversity and inclusion fellow; and To-Nhu “Leslie” Nguyen, 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.

Liz Cunningham — Diversity and Inclusion Fellow - University of Toronto, Department of Physics

Cunningham is a doctoral student in physics at the University of Toronto with a specialization in environmental studies. Along with their research and studies, Cunningham has co-founded a student organization focused on bringing visibility and awareness to the challenges of underrepresented groups within the physics field. Cunningham points to their lived experience as a queer and nonbinary scientist as their reason for working to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in science.

“I am hoping that part of my role will be as a visible queer, trans, and disabled scientist that others who share similar identities can look to as an example of someone like themselves being open in science,” said Cunningham. During their time as a fellow, Cunningham will work closely with UCAR’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to enact workplace policies and projects that will help make the Earth system science field a welcoming place for people in underrepresented groups.

Cunningham views the UCAR fellowship as an opportunity to gain practical experience applying initiatives within a professional workplace setting. “I would like to work on improving, growing, or developing outreach projects run by UCAR for underrepresented communities,” said Cunningham. Cunningham holds a master’s degree in physics from Loyola University Chicago where they also earned the Father Gerst Memorial Award for their high academic performance in the physics department.

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