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Your path is your own 

Patricia Hutton working on research

Picture this. You just graduated high school. You’re an average student, but science comes easy. You have no idea of what you want to do with your life, and you’re about to start college. Fast-forward six years. You’re about to graduate but everything has changed, except for science, it’s still easy. You’re thinking about going into meteorology, oh, and you’re interning for The National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Yes, that stands for NASA.   

SUNY Brockport senior Patricia Hutton doesn’t need to picture this because she is living it. Before coming to Brockport in the spring of 2021, Hutton attended Nazareth College and Monroe Community College.   

“If you told me I had this internship six years ago I would have thought that was a complete joke,” Hutton said. “I would say at the beginning of school I had such little faith in myself since I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I would absolutely think that it had to be to the valedictorian of high school, and I was far from the valedictorian of high school. People always say, oh, you must have all A’s. It’s like, no, they waver for everybody as much as I want them, it doesn’t always happen. So, I would definitely not believe it.”  

Hutton is a double major in Meteorology and Earth Science with a physics minor. She is also a member of the Earth Science Club, and tutors regularly.   

“I don’t really have any fun hobbies, but I work a lot. I house sit, babysit and then work at a grocery store. My free time consists of trying to make money to pay for school and I enjoy being able to get Dunkin whenever I want and treat myself,” Hutton said.   

Casey Griffin, Assistant Professor in the Earth Science Department teaching courses in meteorology has never come across a student like Hutton. He has taught Hutton for the past five semesters and has been her research advisor for the last year and a half.   

“Tricia is one of the best students I have ever taught including my time at much larger schools than Brockport. When she graduates in December, she will be the top student to pass through our Meteorology program since I’ve been here. Tricia has time management and organizational skills that I envy and has a fantastic attitude toward learning. Tricia is always trying to improve herself and does not relent until she understands a topic,” Griffin said.   

Hutton’s secret to never giving up— always knowing you can do it.   

“I guess I just kind of don’t think that I can’t. Like when I was taking physics classes, it wasn’t fun. But I just kind of acted like I absolutely had to do it. And I just always like seeing what else I can achieve,” Hutton said.   

Hutton pushed herself and put the work in landing her the Student Airborne Research Program (SRP) internship at NASA. From June to August students in this program will work 40 hours a week full time (nontraditional hours) and receive $6,000 to do two months of research.   

Students get to go up in a NASA plane called the NASA DC-8 plane at Armstrong Flight Research Center. There are many different areas of research that will be offered such as air quality research and chemistry type research.   

“For the first two weeks we get to go up in the planes and collect airborne research data. There’s two that are meteorology based. One is whole air sampling and the other is atmospheric aerosols. So that’s hopefully where I will end up,” Hutton said.   

The last six weeks of the program students will be at the University of California Irvine where they will be doing research on the topic of their group.   

“It’d be super cool if the door opens at NASA and stays there. I definitely want my masters. If I get a job that I really like after my master’s, I will just stop (furthering education) but I think it would also be really cool to continue on to my PhD. And I think long term after I have some fun doing research, I think it’d be really cool to circle back and be a professor. I’m a tutor right now. I love helping students. I think I could see myself being a professor and I always joke with my professors, like, I’m coming for you. I’m going to be your coworker,” Hutton said.   

Griffin sees nothing but success in Hutton’s future. She believes her intelligence, inquisitive attitude and ambition will take her far.   

“Tricia’s ceiling is very high.  She is capable of doing anything she sets her mind to. I would say I have big expectations of her, but the ones she has for herself are likely even larger. I am very excited to see where Tricia’s graduate studies take her and look forward to having her as a colleague in the field of Meteorology for years to come,” Griffin said.   

The praise Griffin has given is not one sided. Hutton is extremely grateful to have such excellent professors.   

“Dr. Casey Griffin and Scott Rochette (Meteorology professor and chair) they are everything they’re incredible and I’m so thankful that I have them as professors and the support they give us students, it’s just going to be sad leaving them,” Hutton said.   

Hutton has achieved many things while being a student at Brockport, but it hasn’t always been easy.   

“I would definitely say watching my friends know right off the bat what they want to do and graduating in four years made it difficult for me sometimes. It can be defeating but your path is your own, you’ll make it where you’re supposed to be. I’m six, seven years in undergrad, but I’m going to be working for NASA. So, you’ll find your place and don’t be afraid to change majors. Don’t be afraid to take longer, you need to be happy, and I definitely have found that it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing because I’m on my own path,” Hutton said.   

Hutton has gained new confidence through this journey and along the way she became a standout student.   

“Tricia is a great example to all of the students in our program. Her internship at NASA shows her fellow students what someone at Brockport is capable of.  She dedicates a lot of time to directly helping and mentoring her peers. Tricia sincerely wants everyone around her to succeed and I am extremely grateful to have her in our department,” Griffin said.   

Hutton didn’t take the stereotypical college education route, but in the end, she found what she loves.   

“It’s just made me more confident since I’ve found my place. Not only that, I love what I’m learning but I also say that it’s good that I’m good at it. I’ve just been letting it ride since it makes me happy. So, it’s not the direct path I thought it would be, but we got here,” Hutton said. 

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