Laura McGowan

Class Level: 3rd year PhD
Major: Atmospheric Science

Why did you select this major?
A curiosity for the science. As an undergraduate I was on a pre-med path but then took some electives that were based on atmospheric science and ever since then I was hooked!

Favorite course(s) and why?
Advanced biomicrometeorology! The classes focuses on energy and gas exchanges in the atmosphere from plants and animals. There is discussion on current and past topics in the literature that are really interesting! For example how birds change their orientation with different colored plumage toward the sun to combat heat or cold stress. Furthermore, you get to model some the processes involved!

Also I really enjoy the seminar classes. In the graduate program you have to take several seminar courses where you give a scientific presentation to your peers who evaluate your performance. When I first heard about these courses this my initial reaction was fear followed by I need this. The seminars have been a tremendous help in improving my presentation skills!

Best college experience so far?
I had the opportunity to teach a class on my own and I loved it. It was an incredible learning experience and was rewarding to help educate students on a subject I love.

Extra-curricular activities?

  • Co-run the LAWR mentor program. The mentor program puts undergraduates and graduate students in touch with each other to help undergraduates learn about all the details of graduate school life.
  • Participate in the SLEWS mentor program that gets Californian high school students involved in wetland habitat restoration programs.
  • Website design
  • LAWR mentor website
  • Adviser’s and research group’s website!
  • My personal website
  • Yoga, rock climbing, running, lifting, compost gardening

Your advice to new students in this major?
Utilize the all the amazing resources here! Challenge yourself and pursue your curiosities. Stay curious and learn about things outside of your major. What you learn will most likely come back to help you out! Network by talking with professors and getting involved in the LAWR community.

Also join the LAWR mentor program mentioned above! We are accepting graduate students looking to help undergrads or an undergrad looking for some information on graduate school (

What are your long-term goals and how do they relate to this major?
Long-term goals are to graduate with my PhD and then find a position where I can continue my research. It would also be nice to find a position where I can teach at the same time!

Do you have any additional comments regarding your experience as an LAWR student?
LAWR really does have an excellent community. I have two masters from two different universities both of which had great within department community however both lacked a sense of community with other closely related departments. LAWR is great at keeping the departments in touch with its email updates and consistent events such as the monthly ice cream social.