Senior chemistry major named National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow

Oglethorpe chemistry major and computer science minor Hannah P. ’22 has been accepted into the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program. The fellowship recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in STEM disciplines.

The grant comes with a full tuition award and a stipend for living expenses while Hannah attends Mississippi State University (MSU) for a Ph.D. in Biochemistry.National Science Foundation (NSF) logo

Previously, Hannah attended MSU’s 2021 Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) on food, energy, and water security, an experience that led them to applying for the fellowship.

As a Ph.D. student, Hannah will conduct research on macrophomina phaseolina, a fungus that kills billions of dollars in crops each year and thrives in hot, dry environments.

“The concern is that with climate change getting worse, our agricultural systems are going to see food and water shortages,” they said.

Hannah will also be researching ways to adapt crops and irrigation processes to better fight these issues. “I am interested in the interplay between protecting against pests, and the conservation of water.”

The acute interest in agriculture stems from Hannah’s own experiences with food insecurity while homeless, prior to attending Oglethorpe.

Hannah decided to enroll at Oglethorpe after meeting with admission staff. “[Whitney Lewis] has been my rock in getting me to Oglethorpe, getting me settled, and supporting me during my time here.”

In the future, Hannah hopes to help shine a light on Oglethorpe’s STEM program and expand opportunities for future Stormy Petrels.

“Oglethorpe gave me a second chance that I didn’t think I would have. It was a big part of lifting me out of homelessness and setting me up for success.”

Hannah is also grateful for the support and commitment of the OU chemistry faculty, who encourage students to apply for the NSF Fellowship. “We all knew that if one of us got the fellowship, it would be a win for everyone and the program.”.

“[Dr. Andrew Walden] was the first professor to know I was accepted,” Hannah said about the organic chemistry professor.

Hannah also recognized Dr. Allison Roessler, professor of material chemistry, for introducing computational chemistry as a field of study, and says that “Dr. Brian Patterson was the first professor that really seemed invested in my future at Oglethorpe. We have been working together during my entire Oglethorpe career.”

Hannah has served as a supplemental instructor in the computer science department, editor for the University Research Journal, and conducted research with Dr. Roessler.

They are also a founding member of the Chemistry Club and president of the Computer Science Student Organization, but have interests that extend beyond STEM. Hannah is passionate about art and served as president of the Art Club and Continuous Thread, as well as president of the Transfer Student Association.

“I think art is a great way to communicate complex concepts without language. It’s a powerful tool to get a message out.”

Oglethorpe has made an impact on the graduating senior in other ways. Hannah has appreciated how “diverse and complex” Oglethorpe’s campus is, commenting that “the culture that exists here is very rare and exceptional.”

“Unlike other universities, there is a collective group of being here. This kind of comradery is not found at larger institutions.”

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