Alumna Combines Health and Climate Change

The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) awarded UCF alumna Linh Anh Cat a Next Generation Fellowship award. This award recognizes her research on patterns of fungal disease dispersion and climate change, as well as a review she wrote which links her work to public policy.

Her public policy review calls for nations to cooperate with Mexico in an effort to study the negative impact of climate change on valley fever, a sometimes-deadly disease occurring when fungi enter the lungs.

Not only does the UCAR award recognize the importance of her research, it also gives her the opportunity to intern with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) for the next two summers. Out of a competitive nation-wide pool, NCAR only selected one Public Policy Fellow for this experience. While Cat attends the internship in Washington, D.C., she’ll work toward her goal of becoming a leader in science policy.

“I like to work on issues at the intersection of health and climate change,” she said.

Her time at UCF certainly prepared her for this role. Cat graduated in 2014 with two degrees, one in biology and the other in interdisciplinary studies, where she focused on the policy, planning and values of environmental studies.

“Having dual degrees in both biology and environmental policy has helped me maintain a broad, interdisciplinary way of thinking throughout graduate school and research, which requires you to think very deeply about one problem,” she said.

In between studying for two degrees, Cat also participated in the Alternative Spring Break program for four years. During those trips, three of which she led, she volunteered to help with environmental issues in Florida, Tennessee and California. She was also a trip leader for Outdoor Adventure, where she guided people through paddleboarding, surfing and multi-day trips around Florida and Utah.

“The best thing I did at UCF was put myself outside of my comfort zone consistently,” she said. “Now, not only is my comfort zone larger, but I’ve also gained confidence in my ability to try new things in my career and personal life.”

Since graduating, Cat has remained in contact with those she went to school with.

“I have stayed involved with my network of friends and colleagues both personally and professionally,” she said. “We work together on various projects, and I am even writing a chapter for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals with another College of Sciences alumna.”

Cat hopes to graduate from her doctoral program in 2019, with a degree in microbial ecology from the University of California, Irvine. Her goal is to work in science policy.

“I want to work on enacting innovative policies at the intersection between climate change, air quality, human health and the disproportionate impact on women and minorities,” she said. “My favorite part of the job is working with people who love science as much as I do.”

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