#CodeLikeAGirl Scholarship Winner: Chelsea Morris
Say hello to Chelsea Morris, one of the Influenster Code Like A Girl Scholarship winners! She is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in environmental engineering at Cornell University. Her research aims to support farmers in meeting their environmental goals and protecting clean water.
Outside of her research Chelsea loves to travel. When she does, she is sure to check out local science museums (the Exploratorium in San Fransisco is her new favorite) and hop on a bike tour. When she’s not biking, she’s probably snacking on yogurt & honey (lovingly collected by her bee researcher friends) or Cheez-Its. She’s active in her school’s LGBTQ organization for science, technology, engineering, and math professionals and has lots of fun mentoring/hanging out with undergraduate students.
Read on to hear more about how Chelsea plans to change farming with technology, what her favorite products are, and how she thinks women in tech should support each other!
What mobile alert service would you like to create and why?
Farming is a tough business with decisions that need to be made quickly and with careful consideration of weather, workers, and crop prices. I'd like to create a mobile alert service that makes one decision, the timing of fertilizer spreading, easier for the farmer. Researchers in our group at Cornell built a map that highlights the farm fields likely to be flooded in the next five days. We use information on soils, topography, and weather forecasts to predict these saturated fields. Fertilizer placed on fields before big rain storms is more likely to be washed off and carried into streams and lakes.
How would it improve the environment and lives of farmers around the world?
If a farmer was given advanced warning that their fields might flood via a text message, they might consider waiting to apply their fertilizer. The farmer would avoid wasting fertilizer and the aquatic life in the rivers and lakes downstream would be healthier. Excessive amounts of the nutrients found in fertilizers create conditions for excessive algae, weeds, and toxic cyanobacteria. Nutrient pollution is a problem in many of our favorite lakes and coastal waters, from the Chesapeake Bay to Lake Ontario and the Baltic Sea.
What or who inspired you to study biological and environmental engineering?
In college, I discovered a book on biomimicry, a strategy of emulating nature’s designs to create more sustainable products and processes. That book led me to look at wastewater treatment plants, the facilities that clean up our toilet, shower, and stormwater waste. These facilities are incredible feats of engineering and use hungry microbes to eat up our waste. Environmental engineers work to figure out how to clean, reuse, or recycle our waste streams. It’s a fun and challenging job!
What’s your favorite gadget?
I’m super excited for the new activity trackers that record health data like body temperature and heart beat. I don’t have one, but I’m so curious to find out how much I move around in my sleep or when my heart rate increases rapidly during the day.
What advice would you give to a girl who is interested in engineering, but might be intimidated because it’s a male-dominated field?
Build a supportive community. Engineering school is tough without all the gendered expectations. You’ll need to find people who will love you when you’re struggling in linear algebra just as much as when you’re winning first place at the hackathon. Love them back too. Share your experiences and struggles with others openly. Read biographies of women who were the first in their engineering field. Know that you’re not alone.
Feeling inspired? Are you looking to start down a path of computer science? See more of our #CodeLikeAGirl scholarship winners now!