IFAS News

University of Florida

UF CALS student selected as finalist in U.S. Presidential Management Fellows Program

Topic(s): CALS, Environment, Honors and Appointments, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  A University of Florida student is eligible for fast-track appointment to government occupations as a finalist of the U.S. Presidential Management Fellows Program. The program is reserved for individuals across the nation with advanced degrees who have gone through a rigorous selection process to become finalists.

As a finalist, Natalie Nelson, an agricultural and biological engineering Ph.D. candidate, will have access to a jobs portal for the full 2017 year where she can apply to positions that interest her. Less than 7 percent of the applicants to the program received this honor.

“A lot of [the fellowship program] is higher level work with high impact,” said Nelson. “It’s very much an applied science. Most of the job portal has career offerings in law, health care administration, foreign diplomacy and similar positions. Science positions are a minority, but I plan to apply to all the jobs related to water. Regardless of if I get a job through this fellowship, I’m most interested in having meaningful impact through my work.”

The Presidential Management Fellows Program is administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and has existed for more than 30 years for the purpose of developing potential leaders in the U.S. government. The 2017 finalists represent 59 disciplines, 141 academic institutions and 41 veterans, according to the program website.

Nelson’s career interests involve natural resource management, wetlands and water resources. She has worked diligently in her research to determine solutions to preventing blue-green algae bloom formations, particularly in fresh and estuarial systems in Florida and tidal wetlands.

“As a student, Natalie is very self-motivated and hardworking,” said Nelson’s mentor and UF/IFAS professor of hydrology and water quality, Rafael Munoz-Carpena. “She’s easily in the top 1 percent of students I’ve had over the years. Natalie is one of those students we always dream of having. She has several manuscripts and papers already published. She’s going to be great in anything she sets her mind to.”

Nelson’s many accomplishments include conducting wetland research with the Smithsonian Institution, representing Florida at the Geosciences Congressional Visits Day on behalf of the American Geophysical Union, and earning back-to-back first place wins in the Campus RainWorks EPA challenge, among many others.

Nelson also earned her bachelor’s degree at UF in agricultural and biological engineering and is an alumna of UF’s Engineering Leadership Institute at the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering. During her time at UF, she had the opportunity to join other graduate students in creating a summer research program for dual enrolled high school students. She said the most rewarding part of the experience was receiving feedback from students, who previously did not have an interest in wetlands, saying they had a greater appreciation for resource conservation.

“I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to teach those students about a topic they aren’t often exposed to in school,” Nelson said. “I always had an interest in engineering, but not always water until I took a wetland ecology course my first year in grad school at UF. I began taking more classes in fresh water and coastal wetlands. When you love going to class, that’s an indication that’s what you’re meant to do!”

Caption: Alachua County school children in first and second grade get their feet wet in the wetlands of UF/IFAS’ Stormwater Ecological Enhancement Project. As part of the UF Wetlands Club, Natalie Nelson introduces the students to wetland topics. Photo by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS

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By: Dana Edwards, 352-392-1963, dana.edwards@ufl.edu

Sources: Natalie Nelson, 407-314-7207, nataliegnelson@ufl.edu

Rafael Munoz-Carpena, 352-392-1864 ext. 287, carpena@ufl.edu

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. Visit the CALS website at cals.ufl.edu, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.

 

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