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Sources: Nathan Owens,;
and James Hohenbary, 785-532-6904,
Photo available. Download at
News release prepared by: Jennifer Torline, 785-532-0847,

Thursday, May 19, 2011


MANHATTAN -- Kansas State University student Nathan Owens' interest in climate and meteorology started at a young age. His family lived near the top of a high ridge just outside of Manhattan, and he was able to watch thunderstorms develop miles away and roll across the plains.

"Growing up in tornado alley and watching all those storms really got me interested in climate and weather," said Owens, a sophomore in geography with a secondary major in natural resources and environmental sciences, Wamego. "I knew I wanted to make a career out of it."

Now Owens is being honored with a 2011 Ernest F. Hollings scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. The national scholarship program is for students studying a discipline related to oceanic and atmospheric science and is designed to prepare students for public service careers with the administration and other science agencies or for careers as teachers and educators.

The scholarship program offers a maximum of $8,000 per year for students with two years left of undergraduate study. This year 105 students were selected as Hollings scholars.

"The Hollings is a great scholarship and a really great fit for Nathan," said James Hohenbary, K-State assistant dean for nationally competitive scholarships. "He has already had a number of relevant research experiences at K-State; and it is particularly exciting that, beyond the financial support of the award, the Hollings will also create an opportunity to add relevant internship training with NOAA or a related agency."

Hollings scholars earn a 10-week full-time, paid summer internship with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which provides practical experience in related topics, including science, research, technology, policy, management and education.

Owens will serve his internship at an agency facility during summer 2012. To prepare for next summer's internship, he will attend an orientation session from May 29 to June 4 in Silver Spring, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C. During orientation, scholars listen to speakers and tour National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration facilities.

"It's a huge foot in the door," Owens said. "I'm excited for the chance to meet with professionals at the top of their field."

Owens would eventually like a career researching tornadic formation and how to improve tornado prediction and warning measures.

During his time at K-State, Owens has worked for Mary Knapp, the state climatologist and a K-State associate agronomist. Since he was a freshman, Owens has worked in K-State's Weather Data Library and helps Knapp make weather maps from precipitation data the university receives.

He has also performed research under John Harrington Jr., professor of geography. For one project, Owens helped analyze rainfall intervals between Manhattan and the Kansas community of Scandia -- a town a few counties west of Manhattan that is located at nearly the same latitude.

For a second project, Owens helped Harrington and a graduate student interview Flint Hills farmers about their opinions on climate and whether they noticed any change.

"We wanted to see whether the perception of the climate and the actual data of the climate were closely related," Owens said.

Owens is also a member of Ichthus Campus Ministry and a youth group leader at Vineyard Community Church. He is a member of the Manhattan Ultimate Summer League, an ultimate flying disc league. He graduated from Flint Hills Christian School in 2009 and is the son of Robert and Laura Owens, Wamego.