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An Outdoor Lover's Road to a Ph.D.


Lucas Harris '12 near his study site in Finland: the Saana massif, near Kilpisjärvi
Lucas Harris '12 near his study site in Finland: the Saana massif, near Kilpisjärvi

Lucas Harris ’12 declared his intent to study environmental science when he applied to Hamilton, and his interest held, propelling him first to a Fulbright grant and then into a doctoral program in geography at Penn State.

He studies plant species and their changing distributions, with a special interest in ecological modeling, climate change and fire ecology. At Hamilton, the  environmental studies program gives students the freedom to take classes in multiple departments and to choose an interdisciplinary thesis topic, he says.

“For me, it was an opportunity to connect my love for the outdoors with my academics,” Harris says.

He credits faculty and staff at Hamilton and his advisor in Finland with helping him get the Fulbright and a coveted opportunity to focus on high-level work. “The Fulbright grant was an incredible opportunity in that I could study a topic in which I was interested without worrying about the obligations or responsibilities associated with being a student or a typical researcher,” Harris says.

He worked with geography faculty at the University of Helsinki to improve species distribution models, which play a role in predicting the impact of climate change on ecological communities.

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