Graduate Fellows

"The GCSC effectively brought me to the University of Utah. My advisor's affiliation, the financial support, as well as the promise of interdisciplinary training were simply too good to pass up. I have been elated by the opportunity to dive into collaborative, interdisciplinary work, and even more appreciative of the passionate community within the GCSC."

- Chris Zajchowski, GCSC Fellow

The GCSC First Year Fellowship helps attract top students who have research interests around the broad themes of the environment and sustainability, and who seek graduate training that extends beyond the scope of a single discipline. While these students will receive their degrees from different departments across campus, the GCSC provides interdisciplinary training experiences that will help prepare students for broad engagement and collaboration in the professional realm.

Fellows are also eligible to apply for GCSC's small grants in support of research and travel to professional meetings.

For information on fellowship requirements and the nomination and selection process, see  About the First Year GCSC Fellowship.

GCSC Fellow Cohorts

Jaimie Choi, environmental humanities

I received my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Systems from the University of California, San Diego. Since then, I’ve worked as a field ecologist in Yellowstone National Park, Catalina Island, and the Central Valley to study invasive insects and plants. I will be working with Dr. Carlos Gray Santana to research invasive species rhetoric and management strategies used in the United States


jessica chaplain, communication

Growing up in the Appalachian Mountains, I have always had an appreciation for the environment around me. Receiving my BA in English and BS in Communication Studies from Appalachian State, with its heavy focus on sustainability, only solidified for me the importance of transforming society's relationship to the natural world. At the University of Georgia, I became passionate about addressing climate change through examining the way rhetoric shapes the possibilities and limitations for climate action. In my studies at the University of Utah, under the guidance of Dr. Danielle Endres, I will continue to examine the way time, space, and affect shape how we understand and make sense of climate change, specifically within international discourse.

Tara Hetz GCSC fellowtara hetz, parks, recreation & tourism

As a young girl growing up in East Africa, the allure of charismatic megafauna was inescapable. It was my dream to save the elephants and rhinos of the world. I was introduced to ecosystem conservation at a young age and continued my studies in Conservation Biology at St. Lawrence University in Northern New York. My desire to save the world’s wildlife gave way to identifying why biodiversity is important and how to integrate people in conservation actions. I am interested in investigating community based conservation initiatives and how tourism plays a role, especially adventure-conservation tourism. I will be joining the Parks, Recreation and Tourism department at the University of Utah. My goal is to conduct research in social-environmental science. I want to contribute to the development of interdisciplinary conservation science with a comprehensive understanding of social-ecological interactions. I want to help better engage communities in protected area conservation design, custodianship of natural resources and improvement of livelihoods.


I grew up in the southern part of China. My hometown is a beautiful city surrounded by water. I received my B.S at Westminster College and a master's degree in environmental hydrology from the University of Utah. My master's research was involved with natural pollutants in stormwater in the City of South Salt Lake. As a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, I will be working with Dr. Jennifer Weidhaas to explore the dynamics of how animal cells deconstruct by common viruses in municipal wastewater with the presence of common wastewater pollutants. My research will be focused on the intersections between environmental pollutants and human health.

mario JOAQUÍN lópez, city & metropolitan planning

I became fascinated by the complexity of ancient Mayan cities during my undergraduate architectural studies at the University of San Carlos in Guatemala. In 2015, I went on to study a master’s degree in Regional and Environmental Development at the University of Valparaíso in Chile. It was during this time, that I conducted research about environmental planning policies and indigenous Mapuche territory. Since my return to Guatemala in 2017, I have taught urbanism and ecology classes at my alma mater, seeking to share the knowledge that I gained abroad. My goal as a part of the Ph.D. program in Metropolitan Planning, Policy, and Design is to integrate ancestral indigenous knowledge in urban and regional planning processes in today’s cities under the supervision of Dr. Stacy Anne Harwood.


I graduated from the University of Utah with a B.S. in Environmental Geoscience and a B.S. in Geography with a Climate Change emphasis. I will be continuing my academic career through a master’s degree, under the guidance of Dr. Paul Brooks. Building on my undergraduate experience with snow, chemistry, and atmospheric particulate matter transport, I will study how snowmelt is partitioned to surface and ground-water resources. This research is important in identifying and addressing the vulnerability of the water supply in our changing climate.


Laila graduated from the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, MN with a doubl emajor in Geographic Information Systems and Environmental Studies, with a minor in Justice and Peace Studies. Laila writes, "In my home country, Kenya, I see the unfortunate consequences of climate change on vulnerable communities including my own. Consequences such as lack of access to water and extreme weather events destroy agriculture and built infrastructure among other consequences." Laila will be working with Dr. Andrew Linke to study the relationships between global warming, weather variability, and migration.


Having grown up in a culture where economy takes priority over ecology, it wasn’t until I learned a more complete story of the land that I really started to care for it. I’m now an ecological artist, using interdisciplinary practices to foster an understanding of land use and sense of place within my community. While achieving my MFA, I plan to further integrate my passions for art, education, adventure, and activism into a path which facilitates stewardship of planet and people. With the GCSC, I hope to collaborate with social and physical scientists in art installations which prompt our community to participate in solutions to ecological imbalance and social inequity. My advisor is Wendy Wischer.