Sisters Share Top Honors as Graduate Students
Each spring the College of Science recognizes an outstanding graduate student completing his or her degree with the Diane Haynes Memorial Award. This year, the deliberations for the Haynes Award resulted in a tie, with two sisters, Brittani McNamee (PhD, Geology) and Courtney Thompson (MS, Geography), both receiving the prize.
It's no surprise that both of these young women came to study earth sciences in graduate school. Geology and geography were part of growing up, as their parents are both earth science teachers in El Paso, Texas. "Every family summer vacation was like field camp!" says Brittani. Courtney recalls one particular summer trip that "went from El Paso to Gila [New Mexico State Park] to Four Corners to Grand Canyon, then up through Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches national parks, to Dinosaur National Monument, then down to Mesa Verde."
Both of them attended New Mexico State University, and were there at the same time. When it came time to consider graduate school in 2008, Brittani talked with Idaho Professors Mickey Gunter and Tom Williams at a meeting of the Geological Society of America, applied to the program and started working towards her PhD under the supervision of Dr. Gunter.
Courtney began looking for her graduate program a year later. When asked if she was attracted to Idaho because her sister was here, she responds with laughter: "no - actually it was one of the reasons I didn't want to come here!" But fate seemed to determine they'd be at the same place. Courtney wanted to do research on natural hazards and found the research program of UI Geography Professor Tim Frazier to be exactly what she was looking for. The two have enjoyed the experience of their overlapping time at Idaho. Their offices are a floor apart in McClure Hall, and they even live only a block apart in Moscow.
Brittani's research has focused on mineral characteristics, particularly those of amphiboles. She performed a study of the distribution of amphiboles in common soils as well as another study characterizing the mineral content of talc ore deposits. She will be moving now to North Carolina to take on a tenure-track faculty position at UNC-Asheville.
Meanwhile, Courtney completed her Geography MS degree in December 2012 and will stay on to complete her PhD in another couple of years. Her research is in modeling hazards from coastal storms, considering especially the comparison between regional models verses more local models. She has helped in the development of a vulnerability model called SERV (Spacially Explicit Resilience Vulnerability). The SERV model is intended to aid community planning by helping to identify differential vulnerability and to thus help decision makers allocate limited resources more effectively.
Both sisters are excited to share the Diane Haynes Award, and to have their family attend commencement exercises. The College of Science is pleased to recognize the achievements of both of these outstanding students.