Alumna Found Community in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences

Carolina Bieri

As a young child, Carolina Bieri '16 was afraid of thunderstorms, as many children are. Her mother encouraged her to learn more about the weather, hoping it would quell her fears. Bieri began reading any book about weather she could get her hands which eventually led her to study atmospheric science at Cornell.

“For me, there wasn’t one particular day when I realized I wanted to be a scientist,” says Bieri. “Rather, my collective experiences informed my decision to pursue a scientific career.”

Bieri had all but decided to attend a University close to her hometown, a suburb of Chicago when a friend encouraged her to apply to Cornell for atmospheric science. “Cornell hadn’t really been on my radar, but I decided to give it a shot,” says Bieri. “I was pretty surprised when I was admitted – I wasn’t expecting Cornell to be an option for me!”

A large factor in choosing Cornell was the financial aid offer she received – which brought the cost of tuition in range to some of the other schools she was considering. Cornell is the only Ivy League with an Atmospheric Science major. Because the major is in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences which is affiliated with the State University of New York, the tuition is much more affordable than the endowed Colleges at Cornell. This allows students to receive an Ivy League education at the cost of a SUNY program.

The first semester away from home was difficult for Bieri, as it is for many first-year students that are far from home for the first time. But she promised herself that she would stick it out the full year and she ended up falling in love with Cornell and Ithaca. The tight community in atmospheric science was one of Bieri’s main support systems during her time at Cornell – some of her best memories were department events with other students in the major.

“The students in my year were especially close – we still keep in touch and meet up when we can,” says Bieri. This is common of both majors in Earth and Atmospheric Science because of the small class sizes and tight community.

Bieri believes the research she conducted as an undergraduate and the summer after graduation was fundamental in preparing her for graduate school. She worked with Professor Natalie Mahowald’s research group which focuses on understanding feedbacks in the earth system that impact climate change.

In May of 2016, as Bieri and her classmates marched to Schoellkopf Field for their commencement ceremony, they could see cumulonimbus clouds building on the horizon. Soon after, the sky unleashed a torrential downpour, soaking the graduates and their families. Luckily for Bieri and her classmates, it is an Atmospheric Science tradition to carry a Cornell Meteorology umbrella to the ceremony, protecting them from the rain.

“It was a memorable way to close out that chapter of our lives,” says Bieri.

Cornell is known for being an academically rigorous institution. Although studying at Cornell wasn’t always easy, Bieri was left with a sense of optimism that she has taken with her. “When I encounter challenges in my life now, I think back to those experiences and remind myself that I am capable – even when I didn’t think I could, I did,” says Bieri.

Bieri is now a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois studying land-atmospheric interactions in South America.

One of her pieces of advice for current Earth and Atmospheric Science students is to not be afraid to ask for help. ‘If you find yourself struggling, know that others are too, even if that doesn’t seem to be the case from your point of view,” says Bieri.

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