Sarah McGrath '17 conducting research off the coast of Chile in summer 2019

Geology alumna ­­awarded fellowship for climate research

The research opportunities at Wooster prepared Sarah McGrath ’17 for her graduate studies

April 19, 2021   /  

Sarah McGrath ’17, a geology major at The College of Wooster, was awarded a Schlanger Ocean Drilling Fellowship which provides merit-based grants for graduate students enrolled in a doctoral program who plan to conduct research related to the International Ocean Discovery Program. Chosen for the 2020-21 academic year, McGrath was able to use the $30,000 to fund a chapter of her dissertation. Currently a doctoral candidate at Brown University, McGrath studies paleoclimatology, the study of past climates, and earned her master’s at the same institution in 2019. “My paleoclimate research focuses on understanding Indian summer monsoon variability over the last million years,” McGrath said. “By improving our understanding of monsoonal rainfall and circulation, we can better predict how the Indian summer monsoon will change due to anthropogenic, or human-caused, climate change.” 

After receiving her master’s, McGrath spent the summer sailing off the coast of Chile conducting research on sediment in the southern Pacific Ocean. “I was a member of the science team, working as a sedimentologist, describing sediment cores taken from up to 100 meters below the seafloor,” she said. McGrath felt prepared for this hands-on research experience after taking part in several similar opportunities as a Wooster student. “I was able to do geology research as part of the sophomore research program and as a Claire Booth Luce Research Scholar, in addition to Independent Study,” she said. This included field and lab work with earth sciences professors, Shelley Judge and Gregory Wiles, as well as summer internships at Columbia University and Woods Hole Oceanographic InstitutionThese research projects furthered my lab and analytical skills while allowing me to fine tune my research interests in paleoclimate,” McGrath said. 

Planning to graduate in 2022, McGrath published her first paper about the monsoon research in the journal, Geophysical Research Letters, and has the goal of becoming a professor. For Wooster students interested in pursuing related topics at Wooster or post-graduation, McGrath advised, “Take advantage of research opportunities and summer internships at Wooster and try out different research areas to determine what is most interesting to you!”

Above: Sarah McGrath ’17 conducting research off the coast of Chile in summer 2019