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Amanda Sheffield

Amanda Sheffield, a native of Elyria, Ohio, was one of twenty students selected to 2009 USA Today All-USA College Academic Third Team. A 2009 graduate, Amanda majored in Synoptic Meteorology and Atmospheric Dynamics and minored in Physics. She earned numerous honors including the Outstanding Senior in the College of Science, Earth and Atmospheric Science Department Outstanding Senior, and the Howard T. Orville Scholarship in Meteorology from the American Meteorological Society. She graduated with honors and earned entry to the selective Phi Beta Kappa.

Amanda's research experiences at Purdue provided motivation to pursue a graduate degree. "My undergraduate thesis was titled 'An Investigation of Entrainment in Trade Wind Cumulus Clouds with Dr. Sonia Lasher-Trapp," Amanda says. "I currently am an M.S. student at Colorado State University and study the effects of aerosols on convection, an important factor in precipitation and radiation process affecting climate." Amanda intends to continue her studies at CSU. "I hope to earn a Ph.D., give back to my community and work as a college professor."

Do you have any advice for students who are applying for the USA TODAY All-USA College Academic Team?

My advice is to include as much as you can in your application. Though the application isn't very long, you can take the route of either emphasizing certain experiences and activities or try and get as many in as possible. Combining these two methods was my approach, with listing my involvement but emphasizing the activities that I cared about the most and which demonstrated my diversity. Mention your research, your professional activities, but also show that you volunteer or are a leader in another area. I emphasized my work with College of Science incoming students and administration, showing my leadership along with research.

My final advice is don't be afraid to apply. When I started my application for USA Today, I never thought that they would pick someone based on research activities as the intellectual endeavor. But it all worked out in the end!

What was the "outstanding intellectual endeavor" you wrote about for your application?

My outstanding intellectual endeavor was my undergraduate research in the Earth and Atmospheric Science Department. I was completing a statistical analysis of trade wind cumulus clouds, something beneficial to precipitation, radiation and climate. I emphasized the growing field that I was in and how the work that I was doing contributed not only to researchers here at Purdue, but also researchers across the US and globe. I was honored to be recognized on the Third Team based on my contributions to science.

How have your undergraduate research experiences helped to prepare you for graduate study and your future career?

The undergraduate experiences that have best prepared me for graduate school have included those that went beyond normal coursework. I did undergraduate research so that I could apply what I was learning and develop my research methods. I have found that the skills I have learned have been valuable, especially the programming skills! This research lead to me to be able to attend and present my work at two national professional conferences. At these conferences, I was able to see the process of science and peer review, and network with many colleagues, including my future graduate advisor.

Many of my research experiences also allowed me to travel and live in different places in the world. To attend the graduate or professional school best for you, you might have to move across the country. These experiences prepared me to move to a new place and dive right into my studies.

Overall, be involved in as many activities as you can in your undergraduate years! They all prepare you for graduate school or your career. Networking is key in today's research and career world. Don't be afraid to email or call someone and find out more about his or her work.