Allegheny College Student Grace O’Malley Awarded Prestigious NOAA Hollings Scholarship

Allegheny College sophomore Grace O’Malley has been awarded an Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). O’Malley is the third Allegheny student to win a Hollings Scholarship in the last two years.

The competitive scholarship includes two years of tuition support and a paid 10-week summer internship to conduct research, resource management or education projects while working with a NOAA mentor.

Through the Hollings Scholarship program, O’Malley plans to pursue an internship in marine ecosystem research. “I’ve become really interested in ocean conservation and hope to be able to see this work being done firsthand,” O’Malley, a biology major and Spanish minor, said.

O’Malley credits three people with cultivating her initial interest in science. First is her grandfather, who was a biology professor at St. Lawrence University and suggested she consider Allegheny. In addition, as a high school student, O’Malley conducted aquatic ecology research with Susquehanna University professors Jack Holt and Mike Bilger in her hometown of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania.

“Without these three mentors in my life, I don’t know if I would have the confidence and drive to pursue my dreams so forcefully,” she said.

At Allegheny, O’Malley has continued to explore her passion for science. She works as a project assistant with the Creek Connections environmental outreach program and as a chemistry teaching assistant.

O’Malley also has collaborated with Scott Wissinger, professor of biology and environmental science, to study caddisflies, a mothlike insect that lives near lakes or rivers. She will continue that research with him this summer in Colorado, working on a project in the Rocky Mountains.

Wissinger and Creek Connections Project Director Wendy Kedzierski encouraged O’Malley to apply for the Hollings Scholarship, she said. O’Malley also received assistance with her application from Patrick Jackson, director of fellowship advising in the Allegheny Gateway.

Jackson said that the Hollings Scholarship is designed to help NOAA ensure that young scientists in the educational system are prepared to advance the agency’s mission. NOAA is charged with keeping citizens informed of the changing environment around them — from daily weather forecasts, severe storm warnings and climate monitoring to fisheries management, coastal restoration and supporting marine commerce.

NOAA’s products and services support economic vitality and affect more than one-third of America’s gross domestic product, according to the agency’s website.

“The fact that Allegheny has now sent three students into the Hollings Scholarship program in the last two years is a testament to the work being done on our campus,” Jackson said. “Allegheny students are ready to get out into the world and do serious research, which is the only kind that NOAA engages in. They don’t have the time or resources to get students up to speed; they need them ready on their first day. And Allegheny students typically are.”

Jackson encourages Allegheny students who are interested in applying for the Hollings Scholarship to contact him at or (814) 332-2779.

According to NOAA, the Hollings Scholarship program is designed to:

  • increase undergraduate training in oceanic and atmospheric science, research, technology and education and foster multidisciplinary training opportunities;
  • increase public understanding and support for stewardship of the ocean and atmosphere and improve environmental literacy;
  • recruit and prepare students for public service careers with NOAA and other natural resource and science agencies at the federal, state and local levels of government; and
  • recruit and prepare students for careers as teachers and educators in oceanic and atmospheric science and to improve scientific and environmental education in the United States.

At the end of their summer internships, Hollings scholars present their results to scientists and peers during the annual Science & Education Symposium. Scholars also can apply for funding to present their research at up to two scientific conferences.