Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Isabela, but on campus and at home, I go by Isay and Bea. Home for me is the San Francisco Bay Area where I grew up in a repair shop surrounded by tools and machines. Growing up in this setting taught me how to be a resourceful and creative problem-solver, and in high school, I was taking community college classes in auto repair with aspirations of becoming an autobody designer. NYU took me elsewhere, but even when I’m not doing my research or grantwriting jobs, I’m in my woodshop building custom camper trailers and longboards (and soon, surfboards!). Throughout my time at NYU, I’ve used research and development as a way to merge my trade skills with my academics.
What initially attracted you to NYU’s Environmental Studies program? Why did you decide to pursue this degree?
My environmental science teacher in high school always brought her enthusiasm into her class, which engaged me in the topic and revealed how exciting this field really is, leading me to apply for environmental programs for college. While at NYU, in the first semester of freshman year, I attended the capstone presentations from the senior ES majors. Through talking with professors and students at the event, I saw the potential for me to pursue environmental studies with the intention of addressing global issues.
What do you love most about being in the major?
The major itself is incredibly versatile. Some semesters, I focused on building qualitative research skills. Other semesters, I focused on literary analysis and environmental justice. As someone who didn’t grow up defining their career goals in a traditional sense, undergrad was the time that I was doing most of my exploring and ultimately learning how to learn.
What is your most memorable moment while in the program and why?
While studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, I did a 4-credit internship that counted an elective for ES. I worked for Oceanwatch based at the Sydney Fish Market, and spent my days doing invasive marine species research, going on boats with local Australians, and hanging out with fishermen. One morning, I was touring a family around the market to see the auction floor and try the fresh steamed shrimp, and I had realized halfway through that I was touring celebrity chef Mario Batali and his family (owner of Eataly).
What was your favorite class?
I am so glad that one of my last ever classes of undergrad was the ES Honors Seminar. I wrote my thesis on the challenges faced in the design and development of research instruments used in physical observational oceanography. Since I was in California throughout the entire pandemic, this project allowed me to remotely do research and meet incredible oceanographers from across the U.S. This was the most pivotal class in terms of defining my future aspirations, and it was hard for me to stop writing the thesis itself.
What do you hope to accomplish with your major?
Throughout undergrad, I was also involved with the NYU Makerspace at the Tandon School of Engineering where I furthered design skills that built on my trade background. I hope to merge this with my ES degree so that I can use industrial design to develop research technologies that will help us better understand marine and terrestrial ecosystems.
What is next for you? What do you plan to do after graduation?
I currently work as a grantwriter in the Bay Area, and I will continue with it over the next year as I also build my industrial design portfolio. I plan to pursue an advanced degree that will allow me to continue doing oceanography research and get involved in the lab’s instrument development. In my free time, I will continue to build wood and metal projects for outdoor recreation and adjust to life after this COVID-19 pandemic.
What advice do you have for prospective students?
Trust your curiosities, as they will eventually lead you down the right path. For 80% of undergrad, I felt that I was taking random turns, but now that I’ve graduated, I can finally see the patterns that kept me motivated to continue learning and doing.