April 01, 2017

Postgraduate success stories are nothing new for Susquehanna. In fact, 98 percent of the Class of 2015 is employed or in graduate school, and rates above 90 percent are regularly reported in the university’s annual postgraduate surveys.

Alumni Matthew Beren ’14, Siobhan Fathel ’11, Ben Kopec ’10, Phoebe Nicholls ’13 and Brian Zuidervliet ’14 are part of that successful tradition, thanks to their hard work, support from the foundation established by visionary philanthropist Charles B. Degenstein and the care of a singular professor who never minded going the extra mile for them.

Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Ahmed Lachhab was that professor, a research partner and mentor to each of them. “Without the Degenstein Foundation these [young alumni] would not have accomplished what they have or be where they are now,” Lachhab says. “Most of them spent two summers of research with me.”

As university grants coordinator Malcolm Derk ’05 explains, “Through the generosity of the Degenstein Foundation, which supports the summer research program, students stay on-campus and work full-time with their faculty mentor. Over the course of the summer, they learn valuable skills for future careers and graduate programs.”

Fathel now holds a doctorate degree in hydrology from Vanderbilt University. Kopec received his doctorate degree in hydrology from Dartmouth University, while Nicholls received a master’s degree in hydrology from New Mexico Tech. Zuidervliet’s master’s degree in environmental engineering is from Bucknell University, and Beren’s master’s degree in hydrogeology is from Clemson University.

“My time at Clemson University was a rewarding and challenging experience,” says Beren, “which would not have been possible if it had not been for Dr. Lachhab and the work I completed with him during my time at Susquehanna.”

“As a student at Susquehanna University,” says Zuidervliet, “I was fully immersed in interdisciplinary learning, which equipped me with the tools I needed to adapt to a complementary field of study: environmental engineering.

“Dr. Lachhab’s guidance provided me with technical skills and research experiences that translate well to graduate school applications and eventually graduate program interviews. He taught me to always ask questions and worry about the answers later, as the answers would manifest through determination, careful work and sometimes a little luck,” Zuidervliet adds.