Sophomore begins journey toward career focused on study of oceans and space

Monday, June 26, 2023
Emma McGuire in front of a rainbow

Emma McGuire ’25 aboard the R/V John M. Kingsbury off the Isle of Shoals, where she completed a data analysis course this summer. (Courtesy photo)

Emma McGuire ’25 is spending the summer as an intern with the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science (BMSIS), taking a first significant step toward a career centered around the study of oceans and space. And, thanks to news she received earlier this spring, she already knows what one of the most important next steps will be.

McGuire was named a recipient of the NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship this spring, an honor that includes guaranteed NOAA internship placement following her sophomore year. McGuire is the third 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.

McGuire will be completing her internship next summer, and though she won’t know her placement until after Oct. 1, she says she hopes to work with microbes in some capacity.

Emma McGuire works on a boat
Emma McGuire below the deck on the R/V Gulf
Challenger preparing water samples for
nutrient analysis. (courtesy photo)

“The majority of marine bacteria and viruses have not been cultured or identified due to the specific habitat of the marine world. I would love the opportunity to work alongside researchers who are exploring avenues that may advance the development of growing marine microbes in the lab,” McGuire says. “I have a passion for understanding how the hidden world of oceanic microbes affects the ecosystem on a global scale, and I am confident my internship with NOAA will support that.”

McGuire, a biomedical science: medical microbiology and English double major and marine biology women’s studies double minor in the UNH Honors Program, says she “stumbled across” the NOAA opportunity while exploring ocean-related scholarship opportunities, but she knew right away it was something that could make a significant difference for her, calling the benefits “unmatched.”

“I chose to apply to the program because it offers more than just financial assistance; it provides an environment for me to network with individuals passionate about science and explore opportunities beyond academia,” McGuire says. “It’s a huge honor to be recognized by NOAA with this scholarship along with the other amazing recipients. After attending the orientation in May, I can already say that I have made strong connections with other students who will be in my field someday.”

McGuire is hoping that field will involve the intersection between the oceans and space. She says she would love to explore a career in astrobiology, studying extremophiles in the sea as a possible analog for oceans and other planets. Her internship at BMSIS and the NOAA opportunity both offer the chance to investigate the kind of work she envisions herself doing more deeply.

McGuire also plans to pursue graduate education in the future. Though she hasn’t narrowed the focus just yet – she lists epidemiology, biotechnology and marine biology among her myriad interests – receiving the Hollings scholarship makes the prospect of pursuing such a degree much more palatable financially.

“The academic assistance is extremely helpful as it will allow me to save money to support my post-graduation education,” McGuire says. “It also removes much of my stress surrounding tuition costs allowing me more flexibility to pursue my hobbies.”

McGuire, an Atlanta, Georgia native who currently calls Dallas, Texas home, works as a lab technician in the ocean processing and analysis laboratory at UNH and is a research assistant in Elizabeth Harvey’s phytoplankton lab. That work coupled with her BMSIS internship have laid the foundation for her future pursuits, and this upcoming opportunity will serve to further aid that quest.

“Having an internship lined up for next year is invaluable – not many people have this opportunity. I am beyond grateful to participate in this program as it will provide me with relevant work experience to advance my academic journey,” McGuire says.

Interested in pursuing a Hollings Scholarship? Learn more about this and other opportunities available through the Office of National Fellowships.