CULLOWHEE – Recent Western Carolina University graduate Christopher Bochicchio of Weaverville is getting ready to say “aloha,” as in farewell, to the mountains of Western North Carolina and “aloha,” as in hello, to the tropical beaches of the Pacific Ocean.
Bochicchio, who graduated from Western in May with a bachelor’s degree in geology, is recipient of a prestigious graduate assistantship enabling him to continue his education in August at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. The research assistantship is worth approximately $19,000 a year for two years, including medical coverage and other benefits.
A 2000 graduate of North Buncombe High School, Bochicchio will be working with geology and geophysics professor Charles “Chip” Fletcher on research projects examining shoreline changes on the Hawaiian beaches and ocean level fluctuations that have occurred over the last 250,000 years. Both projects are part of an effort to determine the environmental impacts of climate change.
Bochicchio was one of two incoming graduate students selected for the assistantship, with awards based on test scores, academic record and student-written essay.
“I’m really looking forward to going over there,” he said. “I feel fortunate to have been selected for this assistantship, because I’m basically being paid to complete a master’s degree. The oceanic geosciences program at Hawaii is one of the top five in the nation, so I feel very honored.”
Bochicchio was involved in several undergraduate research projects at Western, including an examination of water quality issues in Nevada, a study of health balds in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a survey of wetlands along the Blue Ridge Parkway, geologic mapping for the cities of Weaverville and Asheville, and a hurricane impact study on the North Carolina Outer Banks.
He has presented research findings at the National Geologic Society of America’s annual meeting in Seattle in September 2003, and at Western’s Undergraduate Expo earlier this year.
“What I have enjoyed the most about Western is the emphasis on undergraduate research,” he said. “Had I gone to another university, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do all the research that I’ve been able to do. Thanks to my professors at Western, I’ve been co-author of articles for professional journals, and that’s pretty unusual for an undergrad. I think that’s why I was selected for the graduate assistantship in Hawaii – they were impressed with the breadth and depth of the work I’ve done as an undergrad.”