Alumni Spotlight-Adrianna Foster

Humna Sharif – April 23rd, 2018

As a postdoctoral Fellow at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Adrianna is currently conducting research in the Alaskan boreal zone using individual-based forest modeling and high-resolution remote sensing data. Her work focuses on understanding forest dynamics in the context of shifting climate and disturbance regimes.

Adrianna started her undergraduate education at UVA with a plan to major in english or creative writing. She started taking science courses during her first year and soon realized that's where her interests lay. She did a 180 switch from a prospective humanities major to declaring a BA in Environmental Sciences. This was a challenging switch, and Adrianna dealt with the change by going to office hours a lot and getting to know the work of her professors. She found it helpful to connect with people who had similar interests as her. "Reflecting on your successes and failures is also important, and writing these things down served as a good coping mechanism for me", said Adrianna

During her time at UVA Adrianna was accepted into the NFWF Conservation Scholars program, which is a paid internship collaboration between UVA and NFWF (National Fish and Wildlife Foundation). According to Addrianna working with NFWF was a great expereince because it didn't solely focus on scientific research, but also delved into the socio-economic factors that are a big part of any conservation practice. To continue gaining research experience she also focused her time on a several different, semester long, independent study projects.

When asked about what she wished she had done differently in undergrad, Adrianna replied that having a more diverse course load would have given her a broader skill set. "I wish I had taken a few econ classes, and some other humanities courses" said Adrianna. In terms of learning how to code, Adrianna said she took lots of Coursera classes once she realized that she would need computer science skills for graduate school. 

Adrianna didn't take a gap year between finishing up her undergrad and starting gradaute school. She spent the last six months of her undergrad program dedicating time to applying for graduate programs and connecting with professors, instead of applying for jobs. She sees more research work in her future, with the possibility of another post-doc program.