Tiffany Verlander didn’t know that coming to TCC was going to give her skills that would extend out of this world and connect her to real rocket scientists.
“Growing up I always loved science, but what everyone always wanted to talk about was my art skills, that I should go to art school,” she says. “I started art school, but it just wasn’t a passion of mine.”
Once the South Carolina native moved to Tulsa, she recognized that she wanted a career in a field she was passionate about.
“After a week of watching nature documentaries, it clicked for me. This is what I should have been doing,” Tiffany said. “I was intimidated by trying to jump into a four-year university at age 24. The convenience and cost of TCC were big benefits, and I was impressed with the College.”
Tiffany graduated from TCC with a degree in Biology and a GIS Certificate. She’s currently completing a bachelor’s degree in Organismic Biology at Northeastern State University, and she plans to pursue a master’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of Oklahoma. But first she has some unfinished business in the outer reaches of the solar system.
This summer, Tiffany is in her second stint as an intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. It was the GIS mapping skills and connections she made at TCC that gave her the opportunity for the internship, where she is currently tasked with mapping the South Pole and wind vectors of Saturn’s moon Titan.
“It’s really fascinating because it’s the only planetary body outside Earth with a liquid hydrologic cycle,” she said. “I couldn’t have gotten here without good teachers who really cared. The STEM Research Challenge class with Mary Phillips (a prerequisite to applying for the JPL internship) was very influential.
“Take your classes seriously and work hard,” Tiffany said. “The professors here really care and want to help.”