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Meteorology studies in forecast for PHCC grad
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Jessica Hubbard, who graduated Saturday from Patrick Henry Community College, has been accepted to Cornell University, where she plans to study meteorology. Hubbard is seen during a trip to Hanging Rock State Park in North Carolina. (Contributed photo)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Twenty-year-old Jessica Hubbard has long loved basking in the sunshine, pondering cloud formations, watching the Weather Channel, and admiring the power, beauty, mystery and science of weather.

“Something that changes so fast, how can you predict it?” said Hubbard, of Bassett.

She’ll soon get a chance to learn how.

Hubbard graduated Saturday from Patrick Henry Community College with a second associate degree, and she will enter Cornell University in August, majoring in meteorology.

Cornell, in Ithaca, N.Y., is the only Ivy League university that offers an undergraduate program in atmospheric science, according to the university’s website.

Hubbard’s primary interest is in research, she said.

“Research meteorologists often work closely with chemists, physicists and mathematicians as well as with oceanographers, hydrologists and researchers in other branches of environmental science,” said a National Weather Service brochure. “They seek to better understand weather phenomena such as hurricanes, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, snowstorms and the dangers that accompany them so that forecasters may improve their forecasts and save lives and property.”

It added: “Mathematicians and computer sciences help (research) meteorologists design computer models of atmospheric processes. Meteorologists and oceanographers work together to study many important ocean-atmosphere interactions such as El Niño.”

A master’s degree or doctorate is important if one plans to go into atmospheric research, the brochure added.

Hubbard said she wants to learn and research what causes and impacts meteorological events, how forecasting could be improved and whether it’s possible to prevent natural disasters.

Decades ago, who would have thought cell phones were possible? she asked.

“What if that can happen with the weather? What if we can find more ways to save more lives? I want to be part of that,” she said.

Hubbard said she also wouldn’t mind going into broadcast meteorology (often referred to as weathermen) to share her fascination with weather with others. She hopes to pursue both research and broadcast meteorology tracts at Cornell, she said.

“Weather affects everyone’s life day by day,” she added.

Cornell accepted Hubbard as an entering sophomore and awarded her a $50,000 annual scholarship for three years, she said. Cornell’s website shows the cost to attend the university in 2014-15 is $63,604 for non-New York State residents, including tuition, student fees, housing, dining, books, supplies and personal items. However, tuition depends on which undergraduate college the student enrolls in.

“I had never thought about Ivy League” before a counselor encouraged her to apply, Hubbard said. “That’s crazy,” she said of her acceptance.

She graduated from PHCC with a second associate degree, majoring in science and having a 3.93 grade point average. Her first associate degree from PHCC was with a general studies major. She graduated from Bassett High School in 2012 with one year of dual enrollment and then continued her studies at PHCC.

“At PHCC I was a member of the Environmental Club and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. At BHS, I was a member of the Marching Band and Symphonic Band my junior and senior years and a member of the Indoor Percussion Ensemble my senior year,” Hubbard said.

She graduated summa cum laude from BHS and both times she earned associate degrees at PHCC.

“I really want to thank all the teachers and professors who helped me reach this path,” she said. “At all levels of my educational career, my teachers inspired me to do my best and cared about my success. Without them, I would have lacked the confidence to go after this once distant dream in my mind. I am forever grateful for their wisdom and brilliance and passing some of that along to me.”

Hubbard is the daughter of Loretta Harris of Bassett and Woody Hubbard of Martinsville.

When she was growing up, she originally wanted to be a veterinarian, but “I always watched the Weather Channel,” she said.

“As time passed, I didn’t want to work with animals as a job, putting them down and stuff,” she said. That was around fourth grade.

Her interest in weather and science continued to develop over the following years, she said. For example, she attended a summer science camp, took advanced courses in school and attended a weather festival.

As or her future, she said, “I just want to discover weather.”


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