Junior Geosciences Student Earns Texas A&M and National Honors

May 8, 2014

Amélie Berger, junior environmental geosciences major from Paris, France, has been honored with national, university, and college-level awards and nominations.

Berger is one of two nominated for an Astronaut Foundation Scholarship, representing Texas A&M, and she received honorable mention as a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar. She has also been named Phi Kappa Phi Outstanding Junior for both the College of Geosciences and at the university-level for Texas A&M, and received the Gathright Academic Excellence Award twice, recognizing her as the top geosciences student for both her sophomore and junior years.

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) was established in 1984 by the six surviving members of America’s original Mercury Seven astronauts. ASF makes 28 scholarships available nationwide to college students who exhibit leadership, imagination and exceptional performance in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). These $10,000 scholarships are the highest monetary awards given to undergraduate STEM students based solely on merit in the United States.

“Students like Amelie remind us that we educators learn as much from our students as they do from us. Amelie’s initiative has made her an integral part of our college, and she has been able to fashion a unique undergraduate research program that spans several areas in the geosciences,” said Kate Miller, dean of the College of Geosciences.

The Goldwater Scholarship recognizes college students nationwide in STEM fields, selecting approximately 300 junior and senior students each year based on reference letters, personal essays, and research experience. Universities can nominate up to four students for the Goldwater Scholarship each academic year.

“It is definitely great to feel recognition for my hard work,” Berger said. “They motivate me. It is such an honor to get these nominations and awards.”

Berger said a seminar course her freshman year with Debbie Thomas, department head in oceanography, first inspired her to pursue undergraduate research. She worked with Thomas in researching deep-ocean circulation in paleoclimates and presented her research at the 2012 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Berger’s minors are in oceanography and meteorology, and she has also done extensive climate research in the Department of Geography. This research, under the supervision of Oliver Frauenfeld, assistant professor of geography, led to her participation in an NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in Costa Rica.

“Amélie has already excelled at research in paleoceanography, Arctic climate change, and cloud forest ecohydrology, and she is only a junior,” Frauenfeld said. “It's a pleasure to get to work with fantastic students like her, who take full advantage of the range of opportunities offered in the College of Geosciences."

Berger said this REU experience inspired her undergraduate thesis, “Characterization of Throughfall Variability in a Tropical Premontaine Cloud Forest in Costa Rica,” which she presented at the American Association of Geographers (AAG) 2014 meeting, in Tampa, Florida.

“I want to extend a special thank you to Drs. Frauenfeld for helping me with my undergraduate thesis and for being an amazing mentor,” she said. “In fact, every step of the way, I have had faculty members who helped me develop my interests.”

Berger is involved in the Honors Fellows Program and the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program at Texas A&M. She also participates in the college’s recruitment programs and serves as a peer mentor. This summer, she will research natural resources in Fiji and Australia through Texas A&M’s Study Abroad Program. Berger has also contributed to a peer-reviewed publication, and submitted a paper for publication into the journal Biotropica. She plans to continue her studies in climate science and sustainability at the graduate level, with the goal of teaching at the university level.

“I’ve established an Aggie family who have taken care of me since I cannot be close to my parents,” Berger said. “They have made it possible for me to grab every opportunity; and Texas A&M and the College of Geosciences offers so many.”


By Eliana Mijangos