Episode 1: Alycia Tripplett

Camryn Billett hosts NCAS-M’s podcast Students, Scientists, and Stakeholders. She is a senior communications major and computer science minor at Howard University. Billett participated in NCAS-M’s Experiential Training Summer Program for Rising Sophomores (ETSP) in 2019. Currently, she is working with NCAS-M as a communications fellow. 

Podcast host Camryn Billett talks with her guest Alycia Tripplett about how NCAS-M influenced Tripplett’s academic and professional pursuits. Alycia Tripplett is a junior meteorology major and mathematics minor at Jackson State University. She shares her experience participating in NCAS-M’s Experiential Training Summer Program for Rising Sophomores (ETSP). Her experience with NCAS-M led her to pursue an internship with NOAA through their Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions Undergraduate Scholarship Program. 


Camryn Billett: [00:00:00] Welcome to NCAS-M’s Students, Scientists, and Stakeholders, where you will learn all there is to know about NCAS-M. I’m your host and current NCAS-M fellow Camryn Billett. We are a student-led podcast designed to help you explore all educational and career opportunities available here at NOAA through NCAS-M. 

On this podcast, you’ll hear stories and conversations from students about their current and past experiences working here. You’ll get to understand our mission and hopefully come join us. Today we are joined by Alycia Triplett, who is a current student at Jackson State University in Mississippi. Alycia and I spent a short week together when we participated in the summer internship program. Alycia, welcome!  

Alycia Triplett: [00:00:54] Hey, Camryn! Thank you for having me. 

Camryn Billett: [00:00:57] Of course, and thank you for being on. Now, for those of you out there who don’t know, Alycia and I met during the summer internship program at NCAS-M as I stated earlier, and we were actually roommates. And, during that last week of the internship program, all of us from all the minority institutions that participated in the summer program came together, and we presented on our projects. We spent about a week together doing different workshops, resume building, and different like workshops for like presentations as well; and what we discovered is that a lot of us came from different scientific disciplines and backgrounds, but we saw how it all tied into NOAA’s mission. So before we truly get started, um, Alycia, I just want to ask you what your major was going into the NCAS-M summer internship program? 

Alycia Triplett: [00:01:48] I was and still am, a, uh, junior meteorology major, math minor. 

Camryn Billett: [00:01:56] You’re a junior meteorology major, mathematics minor, and how did you first get involved with NOAA or NCAS-M?  

Alycia Triplett: [00:02:05] Okay, so NOAA, I was first introduced to the summer of 2018. I had just graduated high school and my mom found the, uh, NOAA Geosciences Bridge Program. Uh, that’s hosted at University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and there, uh, I met one of the meteorology professors that’s here at Jackson State, Dr. Reddy. Um, and he, uh, really pushed me to apply to NCAS-M ETSP.  

Camryn Billett: [00:02:42] So before you came to Jackson State University, you were already interested in meteorology?  

Alycia Triplett: [00:02:49] Um, yeah, I sort of had like an epiphany my senior high school. I was a dual-enrollment student, so I was taking high school courses and, uh, college courses at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. And, I kind of didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and so, I was just taking classes to see what I was interested in. And, believe it or not, I took an Intro to Criminal Justice class cause I thought I wanted to be a judge, but I realized that you have to be a lawyer to be a judge, and I didn’t want to be a lawyer. So, I took an Intro to Criminal Justice class, and I was taking a Weather and Climate class at the same time, and we got to the severe weather portion of the class. And, I got a 102 on the test, and at that point in time, I had never gotten a 100 on any test. And I was like, okay, maybe I should do something with this, and around that same time I had received my scholarship offer from Jackson State.  

Camryn Billett: [00:03:54] So it ended up all being fate, right? 

Alycia Triplett: [00:03:58] Definitely! An act of God. 

Camryn Billett: [00:04:01] Yes. Yes, so it ended up all coming together and you met your professor before high school. He ended up training you to join NCAS-M. Can I ask what your project consisted of that summer for NCAS-M? 

Alycia Triplett: [00:04:16] Okay, so my project looked at the high winds and the heat flux of Hurricane Harvey, and it, I tied that to the, uh, storm surge models to see if the unprecedented heat flux in high winds affected what the models were predicting for the storm surge to be in the Texas area. 

Camryn Billett: [00:04:48] And what do they predict? 

Alycia Triplett: [00:04:51] Basically that the storm surge was going to be lower than what it was because they were, um, you know, models base their information off of past events and nothing like Hurricane Harvey had ever happened. Um, Hurricane Harvey actually made landfall twice, so that also had to be factored into the storm surge modeling as well, and, um, the heat flux and the high winds went into all of that. Because again, um, Hurricane Harvey was a very powerful storm system. It grew rapidly as far as winds and speed. Uh, and it, I think it changed from like a category two to a category five within the span of like 12 hours, if I’m not mistaken. And so the models had no clue that that was going to happen, so they were saying that the surge was going to be lower, and it was higher.  

Camryn Billett: [00:05:51] So that sounds like the weather is pretty unpredictable, correct?  

Alycia Triplett: [00:05:54] Definitely.  

Camryn Billett: [00:05:56] Okay. So, you’re studying something that’s currently helpful for us to know today and, you know, preparing information and data so that can be available to us in the future to help with, um, predictions. 

Would you say that you enjoyed this internship? Did you not enjoy this internship? Or did this internship impact the way that you decided to move further in your academic career?  

Alycia Triplett: [00:06:23] It definitely impacted me because, um, I’m not a tropical weather gal. That’s not my thing. Tropical weather is, well, weather, it’s finicky, but tropical weather is very finicky; and I just don’t think that I have the patience for it. So, I’m not interested in pursuing anything in tropical weather, but I am very thankful for the experience and to be able to say that I like tropical weather.  

Camryn Billett: [00:06:56] Yeah, I often tell people who are younger than me are coming into college that, you know, you want to get as many internships as you can, because it’s just as important knowing what you don’t want to do as it is important as knowing what you want to do. 

You know, it’s a lot easier to cancel things out and narrow in on something than to just narrow in on something out of like, a bunch of options that you haven’t even tried yet. That summer that we both had the internship, your focus was on meteorology. My focus was also, you know, on climate atmospheric sciences, but mine was on physics, and it had a lot to do with basically how the Saharan aerosols travel from Africa and affect our climate here in North America. 

And so, with that internship, it made me realize like, yes, I like physics, but I don’t necessarily like this kind of physics, atmospheric physics. I wondered if there’s something else I could do, and then when we all came together, and I saw like some of our other, um, interns in the program who were focused strictly on like, communications. So like, they were taking the, some of the data that I collected and some of the data that you collected and were communicating those findings to the public and how they impacted our weather. And so, I, I’m also grateful for having that opportunity because not only did it show me, like maybe what I didn’t want to do, but it also showed me that like, you know, maybe if I want to do something else, I still might be able to have a future here at NOAA. 

After your internship, did you feel like you were going to have a future at NOAA? Did you want to and not know how? How? How did that internship impact the way you saw not only NOAA but NCAS-M in the future? 

Alycia Triplett: [00:08:38] Yeah. So, I am currently still, um, a NOAA intern. I am not an NCAS-M fellow, but I am a NOAA EPP scholar. Um, and so we have to, as part of our agreement for ETSP, we had to apply to EPP and Hollings, and I was fortunate enough to receive EPP. 

Camryn Billett: [00:09:03] Just for our audience to know and understand what we’re saying, NCAS-M ETSP is NOAA Atmospheric Sciences and Meteorology Experiential Training Summer Program, and that’s the one that me and Alycia both met at. I know you guys are hearing a lot of acronyms and I just want to make sure we don’t skip over anything. You said NOAA EPP. Could you, uh, tell us what that is as well? 

Alycia Triplett: [00:09:27] I sure can. NOAA, um, it’s very long-winded, but, uh, it is the NOAA Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions Undergraduate Scholarship Program. 

Camryn Billett: [00:09:44] See.  

Alycia Triplett: [00:09:45] Right. 

Camryn Billett: [00:09:45] Now you guys see why we abbreviate. I just want to make sure you guys understood what we were talking about. So at, um, NOAA EPP being an intern, can you tell us a little bit about like what you currently do? 

Alycia Triplett: [00:09:58] Yeah. Okay. So EPP is a, basically a two-year scholarship program. So I started the summer 2020, and I will be, I will no longer, I will graduate from the program in 2022. 

So the summers you had an internship at a facility. It could be a National Weather Service office. A could be a, uh, marine fishery. You could work with, um, ocean atmospheric research at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. There’s a lot of potential places to go during the summer. Uh, but during your school year, the first school year is, uh, is research like on-campus research, and then the second year of involvement will be a public service project. So I am currently in my, I just, I finished my first internship this past summer, and this school year I was doing my research program.  

Camryn Billett: [00:11:11] That’s really cool, so you get like an education opportunity. You also get a, um, career opportunity and you also get to do, um, community service, right? 

Alycia Triplett: [00:11:24] Yeah.  

Camryn Billett: [00:11:25] Um, so first congratulations to you. And second, you mentioned that it’s a scholarship program and we heard about the education opportunity, research, um, and project, but in the scholarship program, what does that completely entail?  

Alycia Triplett: [00:11:39] Okay, so during your two summer internships you receive, um, you get, you, they pay you like you’re an actual like NOAA employee. 

And then during the school year, they, um, the, the amount I received, what everybody received is $4,750, uh, every semester as long as you, um, are eligible to, you know, renew your EPP scholarship again. So, you receive that every fall and spring for your two-year involvement with it, and they pay you the second summer internship too, the same amount of money. 

Camryn Billett: [00:12:26] So not only do you get to have like training in your field, research in your field, servicing your field, but also take some of that financial burden off as well.  

Alycia Triplett: [00:12:36] Yes. Uh, because I go to school for free, so all of that goes in my pocket.  

Camryn Billett: [00:12:42] That’s really cool. You know, as like incoming freshmen and just soon-to-be college students, you know, we always hear about the unpaid internship; and you’re always worrying like, oh, I hope I don’t fall into that. Because, you know, sometimes people don’t have a choice. Sometimes, you know, the unpaid internships really are in their field and something that would really help them, and there just isn’t the funds to do it. But as you mentioned it, as I mentioned, you know, I am glad that NOAA compensates its students, its student workers well. You know, I think that to balance school and a 3.2 GPA at least, and research, and work for NOAA and everything, the financial burden being taken off is also just another plus, and I think it really makes you feel valued there.  

Alycia Triplett: [00:13:32] Yeah, I am very fortunate too. I’m going on my fourth internship this summer. I’m fortunate enough to, um, have not had an unpaid internship at all, and I’m thankful for the abundance of internships that, um, NOAA offers and really, in the field of meteorology. Because I know some other disciplines have trouble finding internships, or if they do find them, they’re not paid. And it’s like, well, what am I supposed to do, but I don’t have to worry about that.  

Camryn Billett: [00:14:09] Exactly. Exactly. So, with all of these amazing things that NOAA has to offer, how has it, how has it influenced what your future plans are? What are your, what are your post-grad plans? And do you see NOAA in that future?  

Alycia Triplett: [00:14:24] Yeah, so the internships have been helpful in helping identifying, you know, what kind of, what area I want to go into because as I mentioned, I wasn’t into the tropical weather. 

Um, so actually, I am interested in pursuing a career in emergency management after I graduate. Um, and so, and while I would get, I want to get a master’s degree in emergency management, but as I was looking at programs, I noticed that most of them were online. And considering that we’d done online school for a year now—possibly two, depending on what they do next year—I decided that maybe it’s not best for me to transition from undergrad to online graduate school. 

So, I discovered, um, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has, um, something similar to Peace Corps called FEMA Corps, where basically, um, you would work with FEMA for a year, um, and be dispatched to different, uh, disaster locations and help out with their efforts there, whether it be, you know, preparation and planning, or mitigation, or response. 

Camryn Billett: [00:15:51] That sounds really, really cool, and really just amazing, and admirable, and I really think it just ties into NCAS-M’s, you know, mission. Because, you know, their goal is definitely to educate the next generation in certain atmospheric sciences and meteorology. But also, you know, your time at NCAS-M and, and NOAA, you have decided that you love meteorology. You enjoy pursuing it, but you want to turn around and help your community and be able to plan for them and help them in a time of weather crisis, and I think that’s really admirable.  

Alycia Triplett: [00:16:27] Yeah, thank you. I, there’s a lot of, um, distrust, I feel like in the Southern community as far as, uh, weather warnings and weather out. And, if I can be the person to emphasize the dangers of these weather events and save one life, then I feel like my job is done. 

Camryn Billett: [00:16:55] Again and, um, very admirable and just really what NOAA is all about, and one of the reasons why I enjoy being here. I’m currently a communications fellow and I don’t do exactly what you do, but what intrigued me about, you know, our summer internship is seeing the other communications interns show how they would plan to communicate to a city before a big weather storm or inclement weather, and show how they would communicate to the city, how to prepare for these things, how to prepare their homes and their, and their businesses and their livelihoods; so that’s really good that you’re doing that.  

I want to say thank you for coming on to our first episode of NCAS-M Students, Scientists, and Stakeholders. 

Alycia Triplett: [00:17:39] I appreciate the opportunity. 

Camryn Billett: [00:17:43] If you enjoyed today’s conversation and learned something new about NCAS-M, if you feel like you could have a future in meteorology, emergency management, risk planning or anything like what Alycia talked about in today’s episode, as always, there’s a place here for you and we encourage you to apply at ncas-m.org. 

Again, that is ncas-m.org. We hope to see you soon. Thank you for tuning into NCAS-M Students, Scientists, and Stakeholders. If you like today’s episode, please subscribe and share with your friends.