wc_news | National Science Foundation Research Experience

Western Carolina University student Christopher John Bochicchio, a junior from Weaverville, is one of 12 college students from across the nation chosen to participate in a Research Experience for Undergraduates program sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Bochicchio will spend eight weeks this summer conducting field research and participating in lectures and discussions at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Students attending the program will represent a wide range of academic disciplines, but all the research done will focus on global warming and related topics.

With a major in geology at Western, and a minor in philosophy, Bochicchio will represent the geologic perspective as the research progresses through the summer.

“Global climate change will be used as a mode for testing foundations of scientific knowledge. It’s such a complex issue and topic of scientific debate that it spills over into many academic areas,” he said.

Bochicchio will be working with staff members from the University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, and will spend half his time in the field. His research will be in the atmospheric-based “wet end” of geology.

Each of the dozen students attending the program will be placed in a separate research group, which typically includes a lead professor, post-doctoral students and graduate students. There are no formal classes.

Bochicchio is the son of Sheila Bochicchio and John Bochicchio of Weaverville, and graduated from North Buncombe High School in 2000. He is part of a group of Western undergraduate students who traveled to Raleigh recently to participate in The Research in the Capital Symposium, a showcase of the best undergraduate research from The University of North Carolina system.

Bochicchio has been named to the dean’s list each of his semesters at Western, and he is enrolled in the university’s Honors College.

The Colorado program, now in its third year, is one of a number of Research Experience for Undergraduates programs funded across the nation by the National Science Foundation.

More than 100 undergraduate students across the country applied for the Colorado program, and Bochicchio will take his place alongside students from Stanford and Harvard universities. Participating students are granted stipends and assistance with housing and travel.

“All these NSF programs across the country are very competitive,” said Rob Young, associate professor of geology at Western. “The fact that this is an interdisciplinary program makes it that much more competitive because Chris was competing against students from many academic fields. This is not just a chance for him to represent himself and Western, but also an opportunity to represent geology. It is a great honor.”

Bochicchio will attend the program June 15 through Aug. 7. As a mountain biker, backpacker and runner, he said he plans to take full advantage of the recreational opportunities in the adjacent Rocky Mountains.