FM Austin Challenge Post

First Class of Austin Student Travel Endowment Grantees Awarded

Headshot of Chris McEntee

AGU CEO/Executive Director Chris McEntee

We are pleased to announce the inaugural Austin Endowment grantees, 15 student recipients who represent the diversity, depth, and breadth of the Earth and space science community. Last October, AGU kicked off the Austin Student Travel Grant Challenge, a historic campaign intended to grow AGU’s capacity to support student travel to meetings. Scientist and AGU Development Board member Jamie Austin pledged to match all donations made by AGU membership and the Earth and space science community to the Austin Endowment for Student Travel up to the amount of $1 million. AGU members, Board of Directors, Council, Development Board, Centennial Steering Committee, and staff took the challenge to heart, donating over 2,800 gifts totaling more than $410,000.

Each year, nearly 7,000 students attend AGU’s Fall Meeting. Many more would like to attend, but the expense of traveling to and registering for the meeting can be prohibitive. However, student applications for travel grant support to the Fall Meeting far exceed the number of available grants. Annually, student travel grant applications have grown to approximately 1,500 each year. AGU is currently able to support only 220 student travel grants each year. When complete, the Austin Student Travel Grant Challenge will permanently increase the number of grants awarded to students wishing to travel to Fall Meeting by 40%.

“I have been a member of AGU since the mid-1970s. I joined the Union as a graduate student. Nothing has been more important to me professionally through the decades than regular attendance at the Fall Meeting,” said Jamie Austin. “In these challenging times for scientific research, an investment in the next generation is paramount. I urge all of you to join me in getting a larger cohort of young scientists to the Fall Meeting. They are our future.”

As AGU Development Board chair Carlos A. Dengo noted, “Fall Meeting is much more than an annual science meeting. It is the largest annual gathering of international Earth and space scientists in the world where researchers who span generations and scientific disciplines join together to advance the scientific enterprise. It is a place where a young scientist can hear about the latest work of leading researchers in their field and also present their own work—some for the first time—to their peers. It is a place where lifelong professional connections and relationships, some of which influence their professional careers, are built and strengthened. It is a place to discover career opportunities and find support. Virtually nowhere else can a young scientist—or for that matter a scientist of any age or career stage—experience all of these opportunities in one place.”

This year’s grantees hail from seven countries and represent the wide spectrum of the Earth and space sciences, including atmospheric sciences, biogeosciences, hydrology, paleoceanography and paleoclimatology, space physics, and aeronomy. Grantees are in all stages of their education, with undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. students represented among the cohort.

“I am delighted to receive the Austin Student Travel Grant. It has actually made my decision of attending the Fall Meeting 2019 more firm. The grant I have received will help me cover my expenses and aid me financially,” said Nirashan Pradhan, a student at St. Xavier’s College, Maitighar, Kathmandu, Nepal. “I hope to learn a lot more and be exposed to other areas of science. It is a huge opportunity for me.”

“Becoming one of the fortunate recipients for an Austin Student Travel grant is very exciting! My decision to attend AGU this year was already determined, but I am grateful to now have financial help to assist me with getting to San Francisco,” said Jonese Pipkin, a student at University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

For Antonia Fritz, a student at the University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany, the Austin Student Travel Grant “means that I can actually attend the world’s largest conference for environmental scientists this year! The AGU Fall Meeting also opens up many opportunities for me including getting to know new fields of research in the environmental sciences, especially atmospheric sciences, which I may not yet have properly heard of and to find out which research questions fascinate me the most. I will also use AGU Fall Meeting to get to know scientists from all over the world, to learn from their experiences, and to benefit from their knowledge.”

As climate change and other challenges facing humanity become ever more pressing and the scientific enterprise continues to be under attack, the fact-based solutions provided by Earth and space scientists are more important than ever. To help turn this tide, I can think of no better way to do this than by supporting AGU’s Austin Endowment for Student Travel, which helps ensure that young Earth and space scientists entering the field become connected to our members and our community.

As we enter the final stretch of Jamie Austin’s challenge, I urge you to remember your first Fall Meeting and remember the excitement you felt, the opportunities you learned about, and the relationships that you built. Act now and double your impact by making a donation to the Austin Endowment for Student Travel of any amount that will support the next generation of Earth and space scientists. Thank you for your support thus far, and know that your efforts are making a difference to the future of Earth and space science.

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