Caroline Donaghy ’20, from Beaufort, S.C., a Chemistry - Certified Chemist major from Appalachian State University’s Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences, has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship. The fellowship will provide her with support for her research and a stipend for three years.
Donaghy’s undergraduate research at Appalachian was cross-disciplinary in chemistry and physics and her research activities were supported by a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant obtained by Dr. Brooke Hester, professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and Dr. Megen Culpepper, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences. Their research analyzed factors related to climate change and was published in American Chemical Society (ACS) Omega, a peer-reviewed scientific journal with Donaghy listed as a coauthor.
Donaghy’s accomplishments are due to the hard work she put in during class as well as outside the classroom. She did not have financial support for her college education, leading her to support herself and pay for her tuition. Many semesters she worked multiple jobs and even took a few semesters off to earn enough money to continue paying her tuition.
One of the jobs Donaghy had was as a chemistry stockroom assistant at Appalachian, which later led to a full time stockroom technician position. At the same time, she was enrolled in a variety of challenging courses such as physical chemistry II, instrumental methods of analysis and inorganic chemistry. While she fulfilled her duties as a stockroom technician, she was mentored by Sammye Sigmann, director of the chemistry stockroom and National Registry of Certified Chemists - chemical hygiene officer.
“My application [for the grant] spoke on my experiences of conducting research, mentoring through tutoring or research, all that I learned while working in the stockroom, presenting at conferences, developing my demonstration-based outreach program and Science is Reaching All Demographics (RAD), but most importantly I wrote about my tenacity to overcome the many hurdles I faced while obtaining my bachelor’s degree. I demonstrated my capability to accomplish all that I did in my undergraduate career because of all the supportive mentors I was lucky enough to have during my time at Appalachian,” said Donaghy.
Since graduating, Donaghy has been accepted into multiple graduate programs and chose the graduate program at the University of Connecticut where she joined Dr. Alfredo Angeles-Boza’s research group, exploring the potential use of antimicrobial peptides as a safe, green pesticide in order to promote better agricultural practices. This research can thereby help protect the environment, pollinators and marginalized populations of migrant farmers. She also joined the UConn Joint Safety Team – a student lead initiative which promotes chemical safety in academic research labs.
“Caroline is a perfect example of what a successful mentorship network can do for a female undergraduate student in STEM. She is an extraordinary scientist, a resilient, intelligent and hard-working person and well deserving of this award,” said Dr. Claudia P. Cartaya-Marin, chair of and professor in the Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences, and Donaghy’s undergraduate advisor.
National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship
Established in 1951, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) was the first congressionally funded NSF program. Since 1952, more than 500,000 students have applied with 60,000 Graduate Research Fellowships awarded – an acceptance rate of only 12%. According to the program website, 42 Fellows have gone on to become Nobel laureates, and more than 450 have become members of the National Academy of Sciences.
The A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
The A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences offers a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry, a Bachelor of Science in chemistry with eight different concentrations and an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science degree in fermentation sciences. The department’s programs prepare students to attend graduate and professional schools, as well as for employment in the pharmaceutical and fermentation industries and other business sectors. Learn more at https://chemistry.appstate.edu.
By Sophia Woodall
June 3, 2021