Cecilia M. McHugh

Alia Lesnek

Assistant Professor
Quaternary Geology

Science Building, Room E-224
Phone: (718) 997-3335

Research Interests

I am a Quaternary geoscientist who conducts research that examines linkages between climate, Earth surface change, and society. While I occasionally explore just one of these topics in a given research project, in my experience the most compelling questions lie at the intersection of these themes. To that end, I primarily use cosmogenic nuclides and lake sediments to generate high-resolution records of glaciation, sea-level change, and geohazards over the past
~50,000 years. Topics I am interested in include:

  • Glacier and ice sheet response to abrupt climate change
  • Reconstructing paleoenvironments from lake sediments
  • Impacts of environmental change on human settlement patterns and culture
  • Connections between past geohazard frequency and climate
  • Improving cosmogenic nuclide techniques (e.g., production rate calibrations, optimizing laboratory and analytical methods)

Teaching Philosophy

I believe that at its core, teaching Earth Science is about cultivating in students an enduring appreciation and understanding of the workings of the natural world. Because the geosciences are inherently interdisciplinary, they provide many opportunities to connect course material to
students’ lives. Making these connections is especially crucial in introductory courses, which for many students, are their first and last science experience at the university level. I therefore want students to leave my classroom with not only an understanding of scientific principles as they apply to Earth science, but also an appreciation for the way that science is done and how it relates to their daily lives. In all of my courses, I incorporate methods that have been demonstrated by research to increase student learning and engagement (e.g., active learning exercises, backwards design, activities that promote metacognition, and scaffolded projects). I also aim to engage students in the process of science by integrating collaborative, discovery based projects in my upper-level courses.

Additional websites