College of Science

Two Clemson juniors awarded NOAA Hollings Scholarship


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has selected its 2020 Ernest F. Hollings undergraduate scholars, with two rising juniors from Clemson University receiving scholarships. Korianna Hays and Kathleen Wirth are two of the 123 recipients this year. They were selected out of a pool of more than 700.

The Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship was established in 2005 in honor of Senator Ernest F. Hollings, who was well known for supporting ocean policy and conservation. As 2020 Hollings undergraduate scholars, Hays and Wirth will receive academic funding for two years, paid summer internship opportunities with the NOAA and the ability to participate in two national scientific conferences.

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Korianna Hays

Hays, a biological sciences major, has worked with associate professor Michael Childress on two of his Creative Inquiry projects focused on marine conservation. According to Childress, Hays “was a natural for a NOAA Hollings Scholarship due to her strong interest in marine conservation and her commitment to marine science community outreach.” Hays plans to begin marine field work as part of her departmental honors thesis. Her proposed project will likely involve coral transplant in communities of reef fish.

“I have already been able to make connections with other Hollings scholars and NOAA employees and will have the opportunity for future NOAA employment, which has always been a dream of mine,” said Hays. “I am so glad I put myself out there and applied for such a competitive scholarship.”

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Kathleen Wirth

Wirth, a biochemistry major, has been involved in research projects with funding from the U.S. Air Force, NASA and the National Science Foundation. Her mentor, professor Ya-Ping Sun, describes Wirth as “a highly motivated and hardworking student, passionate about learning, scientific research, and many other extracurricular activities, and always takes her personal responsibility very seriously to excel in all her endeavors.” Sun is confident that Wirth will continue to achieve impressive accomplishments in the future.

“I think the Hollings Scholarship is an incredible opportunity both academically and financially. It is clear the NOAA team cares a great deal about the Hollings scholars’ professional development and care for improving the world in line with NOAA’s mission,” said Wirth. “The team has been very involved, and I am thrilled to be a Hollings Scholarship recipient, as well as participate in the NOAA internship that is a part of this great opportunity.”

Students interested in the Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship or other nationally competitive programs should contact the Office of Major Fellowships at 864-656-9704 or

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