Holly Olivarez is an outstanding student at The University of New Mexico who is filled with a strong desire to study the global impacts of human behavior concerning global climate modeling. Recently named a SOARS (Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science) protégé through her acceptance to a prestigious internship, she is able to pursue her desired research.

“When I learned this news, I was overwhelmed and humbled, but instantaneously felt great pride in the hard work I have put in to my studies and extracurricular activities at UNM,” said Olivarez. “I am so grateful for my mentors who submitted recommendation letters on my behalf. I also felt, and feel, inspired to work hard while I am here.”

Holly Olivarez
Holly Olivarez

SOARS is an undergraduate and graduate program that focuses on awarding students with summer research internships which provide opportunities to be mentored by top scientists in a supportive learning community. Hosted by the University Corporation of Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in Boulder, Colo., Olivarez is spending this summer at University of Colorado Boulder to research the impact of volcanic eruptions on ocean acidity. Her results my serve as an analog to geoengineering schemes, past asteroid impacts and the impact of potential nuclear conflict.

Olivarez is one of only 10 undergraduates selected nationwide out of 170 applicants. The program aims to promote minorities and underrepresented students to perform atmospheric research in order to prepare for graduate school studies and ultimately become leaders in their field. It is a four-summer program, including during graduate studies, and the ten-week program includes the assignment of up to five mentors to ensure a successful experience. Olivarez attending and working in the lab studying these concepts since late-May, and will continue to do so until Aug. 4.

After participating in the Summer Community College Opportunity for Research Experience (SCCORE) at UNM in 2017, Olivarez transferred student from CNM and wasted no time establishing herself at UNM. She is currently the primary lab assistant in UNM’s Radiogenic Isotope Laboratory, directed by professor Yemane Asmerom, in the UNM Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. She is co-president of the UNM student club “Advancing Women in Science” and communications and outreach officer for the “Geology & Environmental Science Club.”

Olivarez’s other accomplishments are as follows:

  • First place poster presentation at three conferences (N.M. Alliance for Minority Participation (AMP) Oct. 2017, N.M. Academy of Science Symposium (NMAS) Nov. 2017, N.M. Geological Society Spring Meeting (NMGS) April 2018
  • Outstanding Student Award at UNM presented at the New Mexico Geological Society Spring Meeting April 2018
  • Outstanding Student Award at the Association for Women Geoscientists Laramide Chapter Outstanding Awards Ceremony May 2018
  • Superior Academic Performance and Service to Department JP Fitzsimmons Award at Earth & Planetary Science Convocation May 2018

“My inspiration to apply for this research internship came from a strong desire to consider the global impacts of human behavior,” said Olivarez. “I wanted to gain exposure to global climate change scientific research.”

Asmerom, Olivarez’ current research mentor, collaborated with a fellow professor, David Gutzler, to recommend she apply to the program.

“Professor Asmerom introduced me to what global climate modeling is: using mathematical equations to describe the behavior of factors of Earth’s system that impact climate,” Olivarez said. “These factors include dynamics of the atmosphere, ocean, land surface, living things and ice, plus energy from the Sun.”

These elements can be used to simulate conditions over hundreds of years so scientists can predict how the planet’s climate is likely to change. Since it is unknown how humans will react and change their behaviors in the future, many scenarios are simulated to make a range of predictions of climate change.

For more information, visit SOARS.