Hunter Geography Alumni Focus


An Interview with Sofia Chelpon, BA, Environmental Studies, 2016
Edited by Christina Santiago, Hunter College, English major


Sofia Chelpon graduated with her BA in Environmental Studies at Hunter College in 2016 and received an MS in Earth and Atmospheric Science at City College in 2018.

My undergraduate degree at Hunter College did a great job of exposing me to many different fields of Earth science thanks to their diverse registry of classes. Although when I arrived at Hunter College I initially set out to enter the nursing track, I took ‘Weather and Climate’ offered by the Department of Geography as an elective. This quickly drew me in and changed my course as I soon became an Environmental Studies major. As a student of this department I was able to take courses such as Marine Geology, Earth Systems Science, and Oceanography. Furthermore, courses such as GIS and Remote Sensing gave me exposure to working with computer systems, satellite images, and data analysis projects - these are skills and tools I still use today.

Beyond the courses offered, I also received excellent advisement and made many meaningful connections, both with my professors and peers. This included research opportunities, mentoring, as well as the Geography Club where other students and I got to participate in Earth/Geography oriented activities (hikes, rock climbing, etc.). I also had the opportunity to take part in a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Toledo’s Lake Erie Center in Ohio. While I was there I analyzed satellite data of Lake Erie’s surface and tested algorithms for identifying harmful algal blooms. My work here confirmed that I wanted to pursue a career in this field.

The connectivity of the CUNY system made my next academic steps relatively seamless. I was introduced to Professor Luo at City College, where I went on to complete my master’s degree in the Earth and Atmospheric Sciences. Now, I am a PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center for the Earth and Environmental Sciences. I am still working with Professor Luo as my advisor, as well as collaborating with scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). My current research topics include looking at tropical deep convective storms over the Western Pacific Ocean, and trying to understand how these systems transport and mix air and trace gasses in the region. I do this using chemical measurement data from research flights, as well as looking at several climate-chemistry models.

Published: November 26, 2018