Not many people know what happens at Tupper Beach in the dawn hours—but Faith DaSilva ’25 does.
She knows how, at low tide, an inlet appears, so you can walk out to sea as the sun rises and the coastal creatures—crabs and sandpipers—emerge from their habitats to start the day.
It’s all wonderfully magical for DaSilva, so much so that her enthusiasm for the marine world piqued the interest of Associate Professor of Environmental Science Gordon Ober, who had a life-changing opportunity in mind for her.
It all started last November when Ober approached DaSilva. “He said, ‘Hey, do you mind staying after class for a minute? I have something really exciting to share with you,’” recalled the environmental science major.
Ober told her about the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—a highly prestigious national scholarship for rising junior undergraduates interested in marine and oceanographic research. The scholarship provides two years’ worth of scholarship funds alongside a paid internship at a NOAA facility chosen by the scholar.
It was late in the game—almost December at that point—and the application was due in January, but DaSilva, with her passion for the ocean, couldn’t say no.
“Every day, I cultivated what I thought to be the best application. It was probably the most intense scholarship I’ve ever applied for,” she said. “At the end of January, I submitted it and they said, ‘Okay, we’ll reach back out to you in April with the selection.’”
“There are thousands of applicants for this scholarship from colleges and universities around the country,” explained Ober. “With this many applicants—for only approximately 100 awards handed out—this is an incredibly competitive award.”
But come April, DaSilva happened to be sitting in Ober’s class when the got the email—the email.
“I turned to [Ober], and I said, ‘I got the email from NOAA,’” she said.
The entire class was on the edge of its seat.
And like a scene from a movie, once DaSilva learned of her acceptance, “the entire class was hooting and hollering,” she said. “I went out of class and called my mom—she was crying.”
“Faith getting this scholarship is a big deal,” said Ober. “She is the first Endicott student to be awarded and named a Hollings Scholar. Getting paired up with a NOAA office, Faith will get to see what a scientific career in a government organization looks like.”
Ober continued: “Endicott is also incredibly lucky to be located where it is and our Environmental Science program has a significant marine and oceanographic focus as a result. Faith will represent Endicott incredibly well, and her success as a scholar will help promote our college and our small program!”
Over the summer, DaSilva traveled to Silver Springs, Md., for a three-day orientation at NOAA with the other Hollings Scholars. It was the first time traveling alone for DaSilva, but it was thrilling too. NOAA gave the scholars a stipend, so all meals, transportation, and activities were paid for, but beyond that, the trip was also deeply empowering.
DaSilva felt recognized and excited about the future and part of a group that shared the same passion for science and the ocean. NOAA oversees organizations like the National Weather Service, the National Ocean Service, the National Marine Fisheries, and several more, and the main goal of the journey was also deciding which organization the scholars wanted to intern under.
Right now, DaSilva is leaning toward the National Ocean Service or the National Marine Fisheries “because I’m very interested in marine ecology as an environmental scientist,” she said. “There’s an internship in Hawaii, which is exciting, and I would be analyzing coral reef data.”
Growing up in Seekonk, Mass., just a stone’s throw from the Rhode Island border, DaSilva can’t recall a time when she wasn’t by the ocean. Her parents are both born and raised in Portugal, a country at the vanguard of maritime exploration and so it’s fair to say that the ocean is quite literally in DaSilva’s DNA.
And even though the Maryland trip was her first time traveling alone, it won’t be her last.
“I would love to travel and be a traveling environmental researcher. I heard there was a senior who graduated last year that Ober was telling us about and currently she’s in Australia researching humpback whales,” she said. “And if I could just do that—go to Hawaii, go to Australia, go to Costa Rica—and look at these different ecosystems, these different environments, and apply what I know to get valuable data that could help them, I would love that.”