Spotlight on Seniors: Kushnerniva Laurent ‘24 Empowered to Conduct Interdisciplinary Research

Photograph of Kushnerniva Laurent '24, a Black woman with long hair, wearing jeans and sitting on wooden stairs.

By Lauren Mar ’24

Kushnerniva Laurent ‘24 has always been interested in science and politics, and at Scripps she has found the perfect way to blend the two. An environmental analysis major on the science track and a politics minor, Laurent’s primary academic passion is Earth systems.  

“I feel I’ve benefited significantly from a liberal arts education, particularly as an environmental science major, by learning more about core concepts relating to the Earth and dissecting and connecting these themes to my research,” she says. 

Laurent has been working as a student research assistant at the Office of Assessment and Institutional Research since she was a first year. While there, she has gained experience with data analysis, which has bolstered her research skills. Laurent’s work has been used in surveys and reports sent to the Scripps community and in data for external reporting bodies such as the Peterson’s guide or college ranking websites.  

This past summer, Laurent was an intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California with funding through CalTech University. As a student researcher, Laurent took data from the Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation Instrument and applied it to researching drought incidents in the Sierra Nevada mountains. She reflects, “The internship was a reinforcement of why I came to Scripps because I was able to explore my interdisciplinary research interests. Being here at Scripps, I was able to deeply explore science and policy not only under professors, but independently.”  

The ability to explore her interests independently has been a big priority to Laurent. While she has navigated how to combine her academic disciplines, Laurent reflects that Scripps has given her the tools and the academic background to pursue her specific interests through summer research. “I’ve always been interested in natural hazards and disasters research,” she says. “Since there isn’t a focus on that at Scripps, I’ve always sought to learn more about what I want to do in the future and how I want to balance my interests not only in my career, but also as an academic.” 

Laurent also emphasizes her gratitude for Scripps’ influence in preparing her for her journey after graduation. “The community of people here—peers, faculty, and staff—want to see you succeed,” says Laurent.  “As I step into the real world, it’s worthwhile to know that there’s not one way to do everything. It seems daunting to transition into the next stage of life, but I’m glad I’m stepping into that.”