Student Emma Liptrap named a 2022 NOAA Hollings Scholar – Natural Self Esteem

Emma Liptrap’s passion for environmental technology began in a parking lot.

During her junior year of high school, she built an internship experience at a local engineering firm in her hometown of Salem, New Hampshire. Engineers took them to a parking lot, which they redesigned to mitigate stormwater runoff. They explained how water from large storms can be contaminated by debris on the ground and then flow directly into the nearby river.

“I had never thought much about parking lots or impervious surfaces prior to my shading experience, but after learning about their relationship to pollution and flooding, I was intrigued—and determined—to learn more about stormwater management,” says Liptrap

Liptrap, a sophomore in civil engineering at the College of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) and a member of Renée Crown University’s Honors Program, received a 2022 Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). will support your studies.

Named for Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings of South Carolina, the prestigious award offers tuition ($9,500 per year) and paid summer internships at NOAA for recipients. The award is intended to support students working in areas related to NOAA’s programs and mission. Students apply as sophomores, complete an internship in their junior year, and receive support and mentoring throughout their undergraduate careers.

In high school, Liptrap began her environmental and stormwater work by starting a sustainability club. During her freshman year, she lectured on water conservation for elementary school students, organized trash pickups at local parks, distributed water barrels to townspeople, and led a project to plant a garden at a local park to encourage wildlife.

She also worked as an intern for an architect who prioritized reusing materials and building for the future. “I loved learning about LEED certification and analyzing how we can make each building more sustainable,” she says. In her senior year, she won the New Hampshire Department of Education’s Work-Based Learning Award for her internship work.

Liptrap enrolled at Syracuse for the university’s Civil and Environmental Engineering program, the SOURCE undergraduate program, and the Smart Management of Water Systems research focus. “I had also read about how Lake Onondaga used to be one of the most polluted lakes in the country, and I was excited to be able to learn more about how it’s being restored,” she says.

Her coursework includes technical engineering courses as well as social science courses to advance her understanding of climate change. “Through my teaching, I realized that my future work will require collaboration with many stakeholders, including academics, policy makers and the public. I understand how important effective communication will be throughout my career and am developing these skills by learning how to give presentations and participate in team projects,” she says.

Liptrap works in the research lab of Cliff Davidson, Thomas and Colleen Wilmot Professor of Engineering in ECS. She conducts research with HYDRUS, a computer program that models the movement of water at different degrees of saturation. The research is being conducted on the 60,000 square foot green roof of the Onondaga County Convention Center (ONCenter) in Syracuse and is examining its ability to prevent stormwater from overflowing Syracuse’s combined sewage system.

“A reliable program like HYDRUS for modeling stormwater runoff will help engineers design green roofs in the future so they can be built to meet the specific needs of an area,” says Liptrap.

Liptrap also joined the university’s water chemistry laboratory last summer and has focused on determining the rate at which airborne pollutants settle on surfaces in Syracuse. “This project will help provide a blueprint for measuring dry deposits in urban environments so that these pollutants can be better studied in cities,” she says.

She currently serves as the outreach chair for the University’s student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers. She is also a member of Engineering Ambassadors, a club that supports engineering projects for middle school students to introduce them to important engineering concepts.

In the future, Liptrap wants to work as a civil engineer with a private consulting company to design and implement green infrastructure in cities. “Many cities in the United States have plans to become more sustainable, and water stewardship through green infrastructure will be critical to that work,” she says. “The mentoring and internship opportunities offered by the Hollings Scholarship will be invaluable in helping me better understand the state of the art and explore career paths.”

Liptrap worked with the Center for Fellowship and Scholarship Advising (CFSA) to apply for the NOAA grant. CFSA provides candidates with guidance and assistance in applying and preparing for interviews for nationally competitive scholarships. “Emma’s continued focus on environmental issues and her particular interest in managing stormwater runoff made her an excellent candidate for the NOAA Hollings Fellowship. Their interests and goals clearly align with NOAA’s mission,” said Jolynn Parker, Director of CFSA. “We are very pleased that she has won this award and will benefit from mentoring and internship opportunities through NOAA.”

Application for the 2023 NOAA Hollings Scholarship will open in September. Interested students should contact CFSA for more information: 315.443.2759 or

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