LAWRENCE — Joe Lilek, a University of Kansas student, has been awarded the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship. Lilek, an atmospheric science major and theatre minor from Bethesda, Maryland, was selected from a pool of around 900 applicants as one of 100 scholars.
“The NOAA headquarters isn’t too far from where I grew up, so I’ve always had them in mind as an organization I’d like to be involved with," Lilek said. “I found the application last year and have been thinking about applying. When the government shut down in the fall, I wasn’t able to submit my application, but I continued working on it.”
Lilek is a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program and worked closely with senior associate director and faculty fellow for research Mike Vitevitch, associate professor of cognitive psychology, on his application. In spring 2014, Honors named Lilek as one of 20 2014 University Scholars. He is also a member of KU Hillel, the Jayhawk Initiative for Student Theatre and active in KU Theatre, including a starring role as "Dracula" in October 2013.
The Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship is a two-year program that provides a NOAA mentor, $8,000 in tuition aid each year and an NOAA internship opportunity. The scholarship is designed to increase undergraduate training in research, technology and education within the oceanic and atmospheric sciences, while also increasing public knowledge and education on environmental stewardship. Selected scholars are prepared as future educators and public servants.
Lilek hopes this opportunity will benefit his future career in atmospheric science.
“This will be my first big experience applying what I’ve learned in my classes, but I get the opportunity to do it with an NOAA scientist," he said.
Lilek’s innovative paring of atmospheric science and theatre made him an ideal candidate for the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship, which recruits emerging scientists for careers in environmental education. His interests in climate change and theatre led Lilek to use the stage as a medium for environmental awareness. Lilek is currently directing a climate change play, "On the Beach," by Steve Waters.
“As part of my final project for my science and theatre arts seminar, I am directing a play about a glaciologist who returns from months in Antarctica to see his parents before taking up a role in the British government. It's as much a family drama as it is a play about climate change, so it will be accessible to scientists and non-scientists alike," he said.
Lilek will begin the application process for his internship destination in October. The internship will begin in May 2015.
“I’d like to use this internship opportunity to go somewhere I’ve never been before, like Hawaii or Alaska, but there are also great NOAA labs in Colorado and Maryland," he said.