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Wittenberg Alumna Earns Award From National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow Program

July 28, 2011  
 Filed in Community, Featured, Science

Springfield, Ohio — The ambitious academic and professional pursuits of Wittenberg University alumna Jennifer Knapp, class of 2010, were recently given a significant boost when she was named a fellow in the Graduate Research Fellow Program (GRFP) of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Knapp is one of seven University of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry graduate students to earn fellowships through the program in 2011. The GRFP offers a 3-year financial award that will fund her graduate school tuition, in addition to providing travel funds and a stipend.

“The fellowship gives me the freedom to focus on my research and classwork without the added time constraints of being a teaching assistant,” said Knapp, a native of Stow, Ohio, who majored in chemistry at Wittenberg. “The travel funds will allow me to present my work at conferences, be exposed to new ideas, and network with other scientists.”

Knapp credits her Wittenberg experience – from the classroom to the laboratory to the rugby field to her sorority house to a community service inspired trip to eastern Tennessee – with preparing her well for graduate school and defining her professional goals. She said the service trip, which taught about the destructive effects of mountain top removal mining, “solidified my career goal to make a broader impact on the environment through my research.”

“The coursework at Wittenberg gave me the foundation I would need to get to the intellectual level in graduate school,” said Knapp, who also worked as a tutor in the Math Workshop for three years, as a teaching assistant for organic chemistry for two semesters, and as a supplemental instructor with the First-Year Experience program for two years while at Wittenberg. “The chemistry faculty also encouraged us to pursue undergraduate research opportunities.

“My summer research experience for undergrads at the University of Iowa introduced me to the creative thinking and problem-solving skills needed for research. The chemistry seminar program at Wittenberg fosters the communication skills essential for conveying complicated ideas.”

Knapp is now pursuing her Ph.D. in chemistry as a member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Keutsch group, which is researching the oxidation of atmospheric volatile organic compounds (VOC) that is tied to the formation of tropospheric ozone and aerosol formation.

“I study an intermediate in the VOC oxidation cycle, formaldehyde,” Knapp said. “Using field measurements of formaldehyde, we can constrain atmospheric models and trace VOC oxidation in order to better understand larger issues like ozone formation.

“Currently, I am preparing our fiber-laser-induced-fluorescence formaldehyde monitoring instrument for its next field campaign, which will employ a Zeppelin as its research platform. Over the next two summers, the instrument and I will travel to Germany, Italy and Finland to study both urban and rural atmospheric chemistry.”

The NSF is an independent federal agency created by the United States Congress in 1950 to “promote the progress of science.” The agency is the funding source for approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research in a wide variety of academic fields conducted at colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Written By: Ryan Maurer


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