Kennedy McGrath ’25 was enjoying the mesmerizing surroundings and focused field work of a semester abroad in New Zealand – and already considering plans for a return to pursue a master’s degree in a couple of years – when she learned she could first pencil in another great opportunity in the meantime.
McGrath was studying alongside the Pacific Ocean as part of UNH’s EcoQuest program in New Zealand when she received news she’d been chosen as a recipient of the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship, becoming the second UNH student to receive the honor for sophomore students since 2019.
The NOAA Hollings Scholarship provides successful undergraduate applicants with awards that include academic assistance (up to $9,500 per year) for two years of full-time study and a 10-week, full-time paid ($700/week) internship at a NOAA facility during the summer.
McGrath will be completing the internship next summer following her junior year and is eying a potential career as a research scientist for a government organization like NOAA or the EPA.
“I was so shocked to receive the scholarship. I know that there are so many competitive applicants every year from across the country,” McGrath says. “I am most excited for the internship after junior year because I feel like that will be a chance for me to get experience doing almost exactly what I want to do for my career and make a lot of connections along the way.”
McGrath isn’t certain what her internship through the program will be yet, but she is hoping to land something connected to NOAA’s marine debris program. She wants to focus her academic and professional goals around the intersection of research and policy in finding solutions to marine plastic pollution.
“I am passionate about marine pollution, particularly plastic waste, so learning how to be a part of that solution in a high-impact organization would be a priceless experience,” McGrath says of the potential internship opportunity.
McGrath, a dual major in marine, estuarine and freshwater biology and sustainability with a minor in marine policy, has certainly taken advantage of the opportunities in front of her at UNH. She is wrapping up the semester in New Zealand and has also accepted the New Hampshire Sea Grant Doyle Fellowship for the summer to work on aquaculture development with Linas Kenter, aquaculture and fisheries research scientist at UNH.
The Kansas City, Missouri native is also an active member of the New Hampshire Network Plastics Working Group, a community group with membership throughout the state dedicated to reducing plastic waste through action and policy initiatives, and following her freshman year at UNH she wrote an op-ed about marine plastic pollution published in the Concord Monitor.
Last summer McGrath worked in the Ecogenetics Lab as part of the Research Experience and Apprenticeship Program (REAP) Fellowship while also working part-time at the Coastal Marine Lab as part of the Anderson Family Scholarship. She has also received the Trustee's Scholarship and the Dickie Family Scholarship.
As she wraps up her internship in New Zealand – and ponders the possibility of coming back to earn her master’s in marine biology– she is eagerly awaiting the opportunities ahead of her thanks to the Hollings Scholarship and is grateful to the people who helped make it a reality.
“I am very grateful for all the people who helped with my application and recommendation letters, because I couldn’t have done this without them,” McGrath says.