Hannah “Rae” Pickens, Environmental Science Major

Spring 2020 CALS Outstanding Senior

"Rae stands out to me as an emerging leader in environmental science. She is always ready to step up and well-respected by her peers."  

- Joan Curry, nominator 



Tell us a little about yourself.

I'm from Tucson, Arizona! I'm an avid rock climber, I'm often on Mount Lemmon making use of the incredible walls there. In my free time, you can find me outdoors hiking, getting coffee with friends, or crushing the local trivia scene. 

I got into environmental science after working at an outdoor school in high school, teaching students about the natural world on the beautiful Oregon coast. This experience ignited my passion for working with kids and made me more curious about natural processes. 

What have you enjoyed most about your major?

My favorite class was Environmental Chemistry (ENVS 310) with Joan Curry. Not only is Dr. Curry a kind, attentive, and deeply knowledgeable professor, but I loved learning the small-scale chemistry behind bigger environmental processes. 

Any clubs or leadership positions you enjoyed?

Throughout my whole college career, I worked as a wilderness guide with Outdoor Recreation and eventually was a Student Coordinator and Lead Guide. The best part of that job was introducing people to nature in a way that elicited strong, emotional responses. It’s easier to start a conversation about conservation and natural protection when people were emotionally invested in the wilderness. Leading a group rock climbing on Mount Lemmon, I saw people overcome their fears and make lifetime memories. 


This past year, I was in the inaugural Environmental Science Peer Mentor Program— helping incoming students adjust to college life and classes. Connecting with incoming students was a highlight of the experience, especially being a friendly face for them their first few months at the University.

Any scientific research you did?

I was a garden intern for the Community and School Garden Program at a local elementary school, teaching young kids about gardening, environmental science, and food sovereignty. 

My favorite moment was when our 3rd grade class dug carrots out of the garden for the first time. The kids were thrilled to see that their hard work had paid off, and they ate every single carrot we'd grown (even though many of them claimed to hate carrots before that!). 

Next steps?

I’m completing my honors thesis entitled “Communicating Climate Science through Art Installations,” which is a culmination of two semesters of research. After graduation, I’ll likely take a gap year to explore the world and spend more time outdoors. 

Discover Rae's Climate Art

I’ve been offered a spot in graduate school at King’s College London, where I plan to obtain a Master’s of Science in Climate Change. 

Words of advice?

When you focus on making connections and pursuing your passions, success will come easily.