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Father says York College offers perfect environment for daughter’s ambitions

Rick with daughter Ana in YCP bookstore

When Ana Chew ’20 told her parents she’d pursue her dream of becoming a marine biologist starting at York College of Pennsylvania, her father, Rick, didn’t think a college a few hours inland made much sense. “Ana quickly corrected us that marine biology deals with all waters—fresh and salt—not just the oceans,” Rick says.

The Chews visited colleges up and down the east coast. Ana was accepted to several, but York College’s intimacy helped the family make their decision. “The other schools were all larger,” Rick remembers. “Ana was grabbed right away by the size of the school and impressed with the faculty and staff she spoke with on Accepted Student Day.”

Environmental concern runs in the family

Rick is an environmental engineer, working as a contractor for the U.S. Army, ensuring EPA and OSHA compliance in Army housing units. Protecting the environment has always been important to Ana, as has her love for the ocean, which her family visited every summer from their home in Chester County, Pennsylvania.

“Ana’s time at the beach allowed her to see dolphins and other marine life often,” Rick says. “She wanted to train dolphins as a kid. She used to think this is what marine biologists did.”

Ana never lost her childhood love for the oceans and marine life, and she has now been able to turn this passion into studying genetics of marine animals.

From York’s lab to Hawaii’s beaches

During her time at York College, where she is now completing her Biology studies in her fifth year, Ana developed a focus on microplastics in the water. “This went from the creek that runs through campus to the ocean in Hawaii,” Rick says.

Along with her concentration on genetic studies on fish in the lab, her focus created a long-distance connection to a prestigious internship with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) thousands of miles away in Hawaii. Ana spent last summer studying the effects of microplastics in the ocean off Pearl Harbor on marine life, earning a competitive spot given to only four students from across the entire country.

“The work Ana was doing in the lab at York College was also on this topic, so the internship was directly attributable to what she did at York,” Rick believes. “She would not have gotten this without the work at York College.”

Hands-on aspect important

As an environmental engineer, Rick views the hands-on aspect of learning at York College as important. “Allowing Ana to have the responsibility of being a teaching assistant and maintaining the labs over the weekends, feeding fish and maintaining temperatures, has really helped,” he says. “Going beyond the classroom, beyond the lectures and books, has helped her tremendously.”

Rick and his wife, Cristina, think nurturing independence is key, too. “What we saw in Ana’s relationship with her professors is their ability to instill confidence in her to succeed on her own,” Rick says. “She left home a wide-eyed 18-year-old and is now a confident young woman ready to get to work cleaning the ocean.”