Time to Celebrate the Graduating Class of 2024!

Graduates look back on their time at Scripps Oceanography, sharing where the next wave on their journey will take them

This June, more than 200 students at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography proudly achieved another milestone in their academic journeys. The graduates’ time at Scripps Institution of Oceanography equipped them with an array of expertise, from ocean and atmospheric science, climate science, earth sciences, science policy, marine conservation, and beyond.

On June 14, proud Scripps graduates and their loved ones gathered to celebrate at the Scripps Recognition Ceremony on Pawka Green.

Scripps alumna and esteemed climate scientist Kim Cobb (PhD '02) spoke at the Scripps Graduate Recognition Ceremony. Cobb currently serves as the Lawrence and Barbara Margolis Director at the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, professor of environment and society and earth, environmental, and planetary science, and member of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, appointed by the Biden Administration. As a leading advocate for climate change action, Cobb emphasized the importance of graduates using their knowledge and expertise to tackle our planet’s pressing crises in her speech. 

“Your work as future researchers, teachers, journalists, policymakers and policy advisors, parents, voters, and community leaders will add momentum at a time when our collective choices will be felt for generations to come,” she said. 

At the Scripps Undergraduate Recognition Ceremony, alumna and science educator Rosina Garcia (BS '17) served as the keynote speaker. Garcia currently serves as the director of education at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and Sea Center. Garcia delivered a speech that empowered graduates to pursue their passions, embrace diversity, and stay connected to their communities.

UC San Diego’s All Campus Commencement took place on June 15, with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore delivering the keynote address. The climate advocate strives to raise global awareness around climate change and shared a message encouraging the new graduates to tackle some of the biggest challenges society faces while fostering a positive environment in their scientific fields.

Among Scripps Oceanography’s 2024 graduating class are PhD students, Master of Science graduates, Master of Advanced Studies recipients, and undergraduate degree recipients. We caught up with several graduates from the Class of 2024. Read on to learn more about their experience at Scripps and find out where they are headed next.


Alexandra Bighouse, BS Environmental Systems

Alexandra Bighouse graduated from UC San Diego with a bachelor's in environmental systems from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. For their ESYS Senior Project, they interned at the Scripps Isotope Geochemistry Lab where they worked under geoscientist James Day to analyze a lunar meteorite.

This summer, Bighouse will work at Birch Aquarium as an education scheduler and at UC San Diego as an EcoNaut for HDH Sustainability, which hosts events and programs on campus to spread awareness about sustainability. Later, Bighouse plans to attend graduate school to study earth and planetary sciences. 

Looking back, Bighouse said they are, “Immensely grateful for the endless opportunities, resources, and support I received from my professors and peers during my time at Scripps and UC San Diego. My favorite memory from my time here is probably sleeping under the stars with my friends during class field trips to the desert.”

You can connect with Bighouse on Instagram


Noel Gutierrez-Brizuela, PhD Physical Oceanography

During his time as a PhD student at Scripps, Noel Gutierrez-Brizuela studied physical oceanography, was a member of physical oceanographer Matthew Alford’s Multiscale Ocean Dynamics (MOD) group and attended the COP27 climate conference in Egypt as a delegate in 2022. His PhD research focused on examining how extreme swings in weather leave a persistent mark on the ocean. This work earned him Scripps’ Edward A. Frieman Prize for Excellence in Graduate Student Research. 

Gutierrez-Brizuela is now working as a postdoctoral scholar at Columbia University, where he is developing a new framework to help understand how and why ocean currents flow upward in the Equatorial Pacific.

Reflecting on his time at Scripps, Gutierrez-Brizuela recalled that having access to pioneering scientists across all areas of oceanography was a fantastic experience. Additionally, he said, “My daily morning walk between my house and my office was also very special.”

You can connect with Gutierrez-Brizuela on Instagram


Samuel Kekuewa, PhD Oceanography

After receiving a UC San Diego undergraduate degree in 2017 and a Scripps Oceanography master’s degree in 2020, Samuel Kekuewa has now earned his PhD in Oceanography. As a doctoral student, Kekuewa was part of the marine chemistry and geochemistry program, working alongside geoscientist Andreas Andersson and other members of the Scripps Coastal and Open Ocean BiogeochemistrY (SCOOBY) Lab. Kekuewa’s research focused on utilizing seawater samples and biogeochemical sensors to improve the understanding of seawater carbon chemistry variability in coastal habitats. These observations are needed to understand possible conditions coastal habitats such as coral reefs, kelp forests, and estuaries may experience in the future and how that variability may impact local marine organisms.

Throughout his PhD journey, Kekuewa dove into his Hawaiian heritage, which led him to combine his expertise in coastal seawater chemistry monitoring with Hawaiian resource management and sovereignty. Kekuewa hopes to be in a position to help benefit Indigenous communities by showing the scientific community the benefits of Indigenous resource management on coastal seawater chemistry variability and system health. He strives to be a role model to the younger generation of Hawaiian and Indigenous scientists.

Looking back on his years at Scripps, Kekuewa said, “My favorite thing about Scripps is the community that I was able to form and create throughout the years. I will always fondly recall the laughs and experiences that I’ve had with such a diverse range of brilliant people in the field, lab, and just in general around Scripps.”

You can connect with Kekuewa on Instagram.


Kanoa Pick, BS Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences

As a UC San Diego undergraduate student, Kanoa Pick majored in oceanic and atmospheric sciences with a minor in engineering mechanics. His research at Scripps revolved around understanding coastal processes such as wave breaking and beach evolution. 

Pick helped develop and test the Wavedrifter, a low-cost drifter that floats on the ocean surface to research currents, specifically to observe the steepening and overturning of surface gravity waves and the transition to turbulence. Additionally, Pick analyzed data from ARGUS cameras, surveyed San Diego beaches to monitor coastal changes using ATVs and trucks equipped with LiDAR/GPS systems, conducted scientific research diving, and helped to design the "BathyBoard," a novel and effective system for mapping nearshore reef bathymetry, the study of the underwater terrain of bodies of water.

After undergraduate commencement, Pick will continue his studies at Scripps as a student in the BS/MS program, studying oceanography with physical oceanographer Falk Feddersen. “The best part about being at Scripps is being right on the beach, with the opportunity to surf before, between, and after classes,” he said.

You can connect with Pick on Instagram


Alyssa Sanchez, MAS Marine Biodiversity and Conservation 

As a Master of Advanced Studies in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (MAS MBC) student at Scripps, Alyssa Sanchez focused her research on shark conservation by producing a film project. The film explores the diverse avenues of shark conservation within San Diego communities while also aiming to address misconceptions perpetuated by media portrayals of sharks.

After graduating from Scripps, Sanchez will begin an Alaska Sea Grant State Fellowship with NOAA's Habitat Conservation Division in Juneau, Alaska. Through outreach, early detection training, and research, she will work with communities and researchers to prevent the invasive European green crab from harming southeast Alaska's ecosystems.

Scripps has been “An incredible choose-your-own-adventure,” said Sanchez. “I loved exploring various ocean disciplines and learning from the amazing experts here. Outside the classroom, I enjoyed swimming around Scripps Pier with some of my cohort members.”

You can connect with Sanchez on Instagram.  


Phoebe Skok, MAS Climate Science and Policy

One year after graduating from UC San Diego with a bachelor's degree in anthropology, Phoebe Skok graduated from Scripps with a Master of Advanced Studies in Climate Science and Policy (MAS CSP). For her capstone project, Skok partnered with San Diego's Old Globe Theatre and conducted a sustainability audit of their productions. She created a guidebook, titled, “Shining a Spotlight on Sustainability," with tips and tricks to "greening" the theater.

Upon completion of her degree, Skok will be working as a communications associate at DG+ Design, a cleantech communications and design firm. She will write short and long-form content for various clean energy and climate tech clients and work in media relations and social media content development. 

Skok especially enjoyed the MAS CSP program's summer session during her time at Scripps. The one-year program begins with a seven-week summer intensive, which was a great way for the cohort to bond while simultaneously learning about topics, such as atmospheric science and international climate politics. Looking back, Skok said, “It was my favorite part of the year — we often ate lunch on the beach by the pier or went for walks together during breaks.”

You can connect with Skok on LinkedIn and Instagram

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