When Psalm Solomon Blaine Amos (’21 biology, environmental science) learned he had been accepted to multiple graduate programs, he was stunned.
“To be accepted by so many schools really helped my perception of myself,” he said. “I was shocked to see I had over half my list accept me.”
However, for Corey Welch, director of the ISU STEM Scholars program, it was no surprise to see Amos’ success.
“Psalm has a strong vision of what he wants to pursue in environmental science research to help him address local to global policy issues,” Welch said. “His passion and ability to speak above his age on environmental and social justice issues was one of the strongest impressions I had of him as a first-year student.”
Researching water health
Amos will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for its graduate program in environmental science. He plans to pursue a career in environmental consultation or manage a limnology lab. In summer 2019, he conducted undergraduate research in the limnology lab of Grace Wilkinson, now a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he processed water samples, ran diagnostic tests and collected data from field samples.
“I became interested in my major due to my stance on climate change and wanting to make the earth a clean and sustainable living place,” Amos said. “I am interested in lake health and the health of watersheds. As one of earth’s most important resources, water should be protected.”
Amos’ experiences in summer research also gave him a chance to present at the Great Plains Lake Conference, where he shared his research and made policy recommendations to an audience of state and regional aquatic managers and limnologists from across the Midwest.
Amos was also accepted to four Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) programs in aquatic ecology and coastal marine aquatic systems; however, those programs were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“My research opened my eyes to further career paths that I now want to explore,” he said.
‘My time in Science Bound gave me a community’
While growing up in Des Moines, Amos became familiar with Iowa State through Science Bound, a pre-college program for students of color that begins the summer before eighth grade and continues to college graduation. Amos visited campus each year with the program and decided to attend when he was awarded the program’s full tuition scholarship. He also appreciated how Iowa State’s strengths in agriculture and science could help him pursue his interests in water health.
Both Science Bound and STEM Scholars, a peer-to-peer learning community that seeks to expand who succeeds in science, provided positive support for Amos at Iowa State.
“STEM Scholars helped me a lot due to Dr. Corey Welch,” Amos said. “He checked up on me and made sure I was doing well in my courses and provided me with letters of recommendation. And my time in Science Bound gave me a community. Being a person of color at a predominantly white institution is not always inviting, so having people you can relate to makes things much easier on campus.”
Amos said he encourages other students preparing for graduate school to figure out what they want to study, where they feel comfortable living and to consider if the commitment to graduate school is something they want to make.
Having spent nine years visiting or studying on Iowa State’s campus, Amos will get to celebrate crossing the finish line to graduation this May. But before he begins the next stage of his life working to improve water health for all, he wisely plans to take a much well-deserved break for himself.
“What I’m looking forward to is having a break from school for a bit,” he said. “It feels surreal to be done with such a large portion of my life.”