PhD Geological Sciences
|Thesis Topic||Numerical modelling and remote sensing of nearshore storm hydro-morphodynamics|
|Supervisors||Dr. Peir Pufahl (GEO) and Dr. Ryan Mulligan (CIVL)|
Storm surge, erosion, coastal hydrodynamics, flood impacts and mitigation
Laura Szczyrba (she/her) returned to graduate school after witnessing the devastating impacts of flooding during disaster response deployments to Louisiana and Puerto Rico. Using modeling and remote sensing techniques, Laura quantifies high-energy storm dynamics that threaten coastal populations. Beyond studying the hazard, Laura pursues a holistic understanding of community vulnerabilities and impacts, recognizing that these challenges require interdisciplinary solutions.
Laura received an M.S. in Geosciences and a certificate in Disaster Resilience and Risk Management from Virginia Tech. Her master’s research applied machine learning approaches to investigate the physical and social drivers of hurricane damage. Her prior degrees include a B.S. in Environmental Sciences and a B.A. in Spanish from the University of Virginia. While at the University of Virginia, her area of research was coral reef hydrodynamics. Following undergrad, she worked for a few years on the Coastal Team at Dewberry Engineers Inc., where she contributed to flood hazard mitigation and disaster response projects.
Fellowships and Grants
- Queen's University School of Graduate Studies Doctoral Award (2020-24)
- Queen's University Graduate Award (2020-24)
- Student Challenge Research Grant, US Coastal Research Program (2019)
- Disaster Resilience and Risk Management Fellowship, NSF-NRT (2018)
- CURC Zero Waste Grant, College and University Recycling Coalition (2015)
- From the Grounds up Grant, University of Virginia Office for Sustainability (2015)
- Service Grant, University of Virginia Parents Committee (2014)
Awards and Certifications
- Honorable Mention, Virginia Tech Hazards Research Day (2019)
- Dewberry at Work Award - Perseverance, Dewberry Engineers Inc. (2018)
- Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM), Association of State Floodplain Managers (2017)
- Dewberry at Work Award - Contribution, Dewberry Engineers Inc. (2016)
- Wallace Poole Prize, University of Virginia Environmental Sciences (2016)
- Intermediate Honors, University of Virginia (2014)
- Szczyrba, L., Zhang, Y., Pamukcu, D., Eroglu, D. I., & Weiss, R. (2021). Quantifying the Role of Vulnerability in Hurricane Damage via a Machine Learning Case Study. Natural Hazards Review, 22(3), 04021028.
- Reidenbach, M. A., Stocking, J. B., Szczyrba, L., & Wendelken, C. (2021). Hydrodynamic interactions with coral topography and its impact on larval settlement. Coral Reefs, 40(2), 505-519.
- Szczyrba, L. (2021).Hurricane damage harms the most vulnerable, reveals inequality and social divides. The Conversation, Academic Journalism Society.