Graduates of CNM: Brianna Green

Brianna, who graduated from CNM in 2017, is now about to start a prestigious Masters to Ph.D. program where she’ll study the effects of climate change
August 06, 2020

If everything goes to plan, Brianna Green will be flying to Norway this coming April to collect soil samples from the frozen tundra in that country. She’ll then fly back to the University of Tennessee—where she’s just starting her Masters to Ph.D. program in the Earth and Planetary Science Department—to study if and how microbes in that soil release greenhouse gasses. 

The trip will be her reward for lots of hard work over the past five years. Brianna first discovered her love for science back at CNM in 2015 after enrolling in a geology class. She came to CNM with low Accuplacer scores so geology was all she could take. It was a lucky break, however, because she was immediately captivated by the study of the earth. 

“I grew to love geology because that field helps answer questions about the world around us and also helps us solve real-world problems,” she says.

Her first fieldwork was done as part of the Summer Community College Opportunity for Research Experience (SCCORE) program, which places eligible CNM students in paid internships with a nearby four-year research school. Brianna partnered with New Mexico State and the University of New Mexico, and at UNM she was put on a project that looked at uranium concentrations in soil and water. That work was important, she says, because it helped several native communities see if uranium contamination was harming their drinking water, their animals, and their crops. 

After CNM, she enrolled in New Mexico Tech, where she graduated with her bachelor’s in Earth Science this past spring. Brianna says she learned a lot at Tech, but also struggled because it was an adjustment getting used to the more competitive environment at the school.

“I was definitely feeling a little CNM homesick,” she says.

For her final project at Tech, Brianna studied microbes that live in extreme environments, like local hot springs, to try and see if and how their DNA is different.

Now it’s off to grad school. She’s been in Knoxville since July and is adjusting to the new culture and environment. She applied to the University of Tennessee because it has a strong department, but also because she liked her assigned advisor’s approach. 

“It was really important when he told me that I should only enroll in grad school because I want to, not because I felt pressure to continue,” she says. “That meant a lot.” 

Her grad work hasn’t started just yet, but when it does this fall, Brianna says she’ll use an important lesson she learned back at CNM. At CNM, Brianna says, she was glad to be around older adults who were returning to school, or adults with kids, because they taught her that there’s always more to life than school, and that she should always keep the real world in mind. This real-world perspective has guided her throughout and that’s why she’s pursued work that will make a difference. 

“I definitely left CNM with a broad and helpful perspective,” she says.

In the next five to 10 years, Brianna hopes to be done with her Ph.D. and in a teaching and research role. She wants to pursue her own projects, but also wants to pass on knowledge to others. 

“I’ve always enjoyed helping other people, and I’ve always been appreciative of my professors, particularly those at CNM,” she says.