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Interview with a Branch Alumni — Emily West

As a Branch parent, or prospective Branch parent, you might wonder where an education here can lead.  Emily West attended Branch from age three through eighth grade.  She is currently attending the University of Oklahoma, majoring in Meteorology and Geology.  Emily credits Branch middle school math teacher Laura Davis for making math both understandable and fun.  As her chosen field is math intensive, this great foundation in math has done her well. 

What interested you in Meteorology?

I am not the person who has wanted to study meteorology since that one weather event they experienced when they were a kid.  Some of my classmates have been doing weather experiments since they were little!  However, science was front and center at my house as my father is a geophysical oceanographer, and my mother is a bio-chemical oceanographer, both with PhD’s.  Science was always a big deal at our house-- I grew up with dinosaur eggs on the mantel, assorted sands and rocks on the bookshelves next to mannequin heads shrunk by pressure that came from my mom’s dives in DSV Alvin, and a very large picture of the bathymetry of the Southwest Indian ridge hanging in the game room. I love the ocean and marine life, and until senior year in high school wanted to major in biology. Then, I realized that one could have a career in meteorology.  This was a pretty dramatic shift for me, because my plan was to major in biology and then work in conservation, but I did not have an idea as to what I would do if I majored in meteorology. Naturally, as I explored each discipline, I looked for examples that combined both meteorology and biology, and I stumbled upon the movie Sharknado. Syfy managed to make six Sharknado movies, and because my family had a joke that I would join my interests in meteorology and biology to be a sharknado specialist, I have seen each of them at least twice—for research purposes, of course.


Well, given all the strange events of the past year, who knows!  I suspect OU does not offer Sharknado studies?

No, they don’t!  However, the University of Oklahoma has allowed me to pursue several of my interests, not limited to just meteorology, geology, and biology. I’m currently double majoring in meteorology and geology because I get to learn about a wide range of topics that I am interested in as well as learn about how the Earth systems interact with one another. I find Earth system interactions fascinating because my interests span all four systems, atmosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, and hydrosphere. I often joke that I am majoring in the Earth because with a meteorology and a geology major, I am only missing two other systems; this will be remedied when I am able to attend graduate school. I intend to specialize in either biometeorology, bioclimatology, or oceanography, and ultimately earn a PhD. Though I do not yet know what I will do after I get a PhD, as I can see myself either teaching or doing multidisciplinary research on the effects of climate change. I believe that, with all the opportunities I have been able to take advantage of, OU is properly preparing me for whatever career I may have in the future.

You’ve credited your middle school math teacher with sparking your love of mathematics.  Can you tell us a little about that?

My teacher Ms. Davis helped me see that math wasn't scary, it was fun.  She was my tutor all through high school, and she is such an amazing teacher.  There is no way I would be doing the high level math I’m doing now without her.


What else about your time at The Branch School was valuable to you?

One thing that I use all the time is "I" messaging that I learned from a very young age in Branch preschool.  The use of "I" messaging helps me communicate effectively and with kindness, while also standing up for my feelings and beliefs. 

Do you still have contact with friends and teachers from your time at Branch?

Yes!  Some of the friends I made at Branch are still my best friends, even though we went to different high schools then on to different colleges.

I still connect with my teachers on a regular basis.  They are always there for me if I need them, and it's really fun to catch up and see the changes on campus since I was last there.  One of my favorite events is the Alumni dinner, where we come back to campus, have dinner and see our former teachers.  They actually had to eventually kick us out or we would have stayed all night!

What do you like to do in your spare time?

When I’m home, I like to ride my horses Sandman and Sage.  I love to hang out with my friends and my family.  At school, I have a great group of friends.  I was also chosen to be an OU “Weather Friend”.  The Weather Friends are a group of weather-themed superheroes who attend events geared towards children.  We will dress up as a superhero, then do an experiment that kids can do which illustrates something in Meteorology.  I love teaching, and it’s really been fun.

Picture of Branch School alum; The Branch School; Private School in Houston



Emily attends the University of Oklahoma and is majoring in Meteorology.  This spring, she studied abroad at University of Redding, England.  She is currently in Africa, studying the effects of wind on Lake Tanganyika.