AMS Freshman Scholarship Winners Reflect on Their First Year

In academic year 2016-2017, the School of Meteorology was privileged to have three of the AMS (American Meteorological Society) Freshman Scholarship winners commit to OU for their Bachelor’s degrees. Over the next week, we will be featuring each of these students; learning about them and their experience during their first year as OU Meteorology students.

Our first student is Matthew Bray. Bray is from Nashville, Tennessee and is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Meteorology with plans to double major in Math. In addition to academics, Matthew is also involved with the OU Math Club, the Putnam Problem Solving Seminar, the OU Club Golf, and Honors Informal Reading Groups.

He has been given many opportunities at the School, including research projects that place him right next to the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, which issues tornado and severe thunderstorm watches all across the county. He also is involved with the Oklahoma Weather Lab and the OU Student Chapter of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association, two premier student organizations within the School.

Bray said “As a meteorology major at OU, I’ve been given so many excellent opportunities. I’ve gotten the chance to start on a research project as a freshman, learned from some of the best meteorologists in the world, and am right next to places like the Storm Prediction Center and Severe Storms Lab. OU also provides a lot of awesome student opportunities like SCAN and OWL.”

Some of those research project include studying the Arctic Circle and Antarctica!

“Late in my first semester, I started working with Dr. Cavallo in the Arctic and Antarctic Atmospheric Research Group. As a first-year student, I obviously do not have a lot of technical expertise yet, but I have still starting working on a project with Dr. Cavallo. Currently, I am starting to look at how Tropopause Polar Vortices, which develop in the Arctic, can affect severe weather outbreaks through interactions with the jet stream. Through these research activities with Dr. Cavallo, I have also started to learn a lot of new skills, from some basics about computer programming to the fundamentals of atmospheric dynamics. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep working on this project through all of my time at OU.”

The transition from high school to college academically can sometimes prove challenging to students, but for Bray, he found it surprisingly easy.

“Surprisingly, it wasn’t all that different (The transition from high school to college) for me. I was expecting a huge change, and at first I was fairly nervous about my classes. But after a few weeks of settling in, I realized it wasn’t too different from high school, aside from a few changes. Because classes lasted only a semester instead of a full year, we moved through things a lot quicker with less review. Tests and quizzes were also much harder and made up a much larger percentage of my grade than I was used to. Aside from these things, which just required me to change my study habits, the general feel of the academics seemed really similar to my high school.”

Three things stuck out to Bray, which were the main drivers for him deciding to make OU his home.

“The first and most important was the School of Meteorology. After seeing the National Weather Center and discovering how many research opportunities were available, I knew that none of the other schools’ I was considering could compare. The second reason was OU itself; the facilities were as nice as any college I had visited, and the campus and surrounding areas were absolutely beautiful. The third was the money––OU had plenty of scholarships available to help make coming here debt-free.”

Despite the positives, Bray still had a few things that weren’t quite knocked out until he came to OU.

“The main reservation I had about Oklahoma in general was the scenery. Being from Nashville, I am used to lots of tall trees and lots of hills, and Oklahoma has neither of these. Over time, I’ve gotten more used to the flatness of Oklahoma and come to appreciate the wonderful sunset views you can get (though I think I still like the hills more). The main worry I had about OU was living in the dorms and eating on campus in my freshman year. These turned out to be completely misguided. I loved living in the dorms, where I met tons of new friends, and the food was surprisingly not bad, not to mention unlimited.”

Even outside of academics, Bray has found ways to make OU feel more like home.

“The best parts of being at OU for me have been the people and all of the cool things there are to do with them on campus. I have met so many awesome, intelligent friends from all over the country, and I enjoying spending time with them more than just about anything else. There is also no shortage of fun things to do on campus, from Union Programing Board events (like Friday night movies) to all of the equipment available at the Huff and so many other events going on all the time.”

Bray likes challenges, and he hopes to continue that as he pursues his degree at OU.

“Even after just freshman year, I can tell that I am going to be challenged more at OU than I would have been at any other school, which I really love.”

We are so glad Matthew chose the School of Meteorology at OU and we wish him the best over the next few years in the program!

Keep an eye out for our next featured freshman, Kristine Chen!