Written by Zacch Estrada-Petersen
When Nkosi Muse walked across the UNC Charlotte commencement stage this past May with a B.S. in Meteorology and a minor in Mathematics, it was the culmination of a dream that began when he was still a child in his native Somerset, New Jersey.
“When I was in 5th grade, I did a typical science project on tornados,” said Muse. “Ever since that point I wanted to analyze and learn more about the atmosphere, so it’s always stuck with me.”
But graduation was only the beginning of more to come. In the fall he’ll be applying to graduate school, where his list of top choices includes Louisiana State, North Carolina State, Rutgers, Miami and University of California, Berkeley, among others. His ultimate goal is to jump into the broadcast field, but not just to provide you with your morning weather forecast.
“I want to be a scientific correspondent when it comes to things like climate change,” says Muse. “And things that you don’t hear about on a daily basis when it comes to science.”
For the time being, however, Muse is currently part of a summer research project in Boulder, Colorado with an organization called SOARS – Significant Opportunities in Atmospheric Research and Science – where he’s using climate models to help predict where hurricanes may land, in order to mitigate their impact. This is his third internship with the program, which has offered him unique research experiences during each of his terms. In previous years he’s worked on atmosphere-ocean climate interactions and done studies on flooding.
“You pretty much have a project that you need to complete by the end of the summer,” he says of the program. “Then you present it here, and you eventually go to conferences and present it there as well.”
SOARS bills itself as an undergraduate-to-graduate bridge program designed to broaden participation in the atmospheric and related sciences. Even more notably, they intentionally seek to involve students from groups that are historically underrepresented in the sciences.
“They embrace bringing people of color, and women, and LGBTQ members into the field,” says Muse. “It’s kind of like a no-discrimination thing, where they just want to enhance diversity in science.”
That targeted approach to increasing diversity may be somewhat different from Muse’s collegiate experience, where he found himself to often be one of very few Black males in his particular course of study.
“Honestly, I feel like I was looked at as somebody that wasn’t as proficient as other people that were in my classes,” he says. “Until they realized that I was doing internships like the one I’m doing now – then they started to take me more seriously. Of course you may not be looked at as the first option all the time when you’re of darker skin color, but you can do a lot to prove them wrong.”
His advice for other Black males in similar situations:
It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth it. I think more minorities in the field would definitely be a blessing. There are so many opportunities out here now and people are realizing that there isn’t diversity; so they want to embrace it. And you also have the ability to help your community. I’ve spoken to kids in Louisiana, and they didn’t really know much about meteorology, or about any type of science in general. People like that – after they go into that field, they can go back and help those communities when the time arises, so we don’t have to see the type of stuff we saw with Hurricane Katrina. We won’t have to worry about whether or not we’re going to get the help we need.
The My Brother’s Keeper Scholarship at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is an endowment fund targeted to Black males majoring in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields at UNCC. The "What They See Is What They'll Be" blog series, adopted from the motto of 100 Black Men of America, is a bi-weekly blog series featuring personal stories of Black men from the UNCC community who are actively engaged in those fields. The goal of the series is to serve as a source of information and inspiration to others aspiring to follow similar career paths. To learn more, or to contribute to the endowment fund, visit www.unccmybrotherskeeper.org.