May 10, 2005
By Mariel Betancourt
Amy Shelker is one lucky scientist.
The 2004 Ohio University alumna has been selected to receive a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, an award that gives her a tremendous amount of freedom as a researcher.
In winning the award, Shelker has not only earned paid tuition for studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but also the right to choose her own research interests and professors.
Shelker, who graduated summa cum laude as a chemistry and math double major, said she loves the sciences and is excited about her future research. NSF Graduate Fellowships are among the most prestigious awards given to scientists at this stage in their careers, and past recipients have gone on to become influential leaders in their fields.
"I've always enjoyed the logic involved, coming up with an idea, testing the idea, proving yourself right or wrong," Shelker said.
"I like the freedom this award provides me," she added. "This award means the government will pay my salary, and I can choose to work with whom I want, regardless of whether or not the university has the funding for the research."
Her research will be made possible by a generous stipend of $30,000 yearly provided by the NSF.
Shelker wrote three essays and an original research proposal for the application. She proposed studying how light affects certain compounds and causes them to change from magnetic to nonmagnetic states. Known as "Light-Induced Excited Spin State Trapping," this new process poses exciting possibilities. Researchers propose it may make it possible to use these compounds in new applications - even for the storage of information in computers.
Shelker took a year off school after graduating in 2004 to continue her research with Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biology Jeffrey Rack. She began this research as a junior.
"Her undergraduate research experience was critical to winning this award," Rack said. "While NSF considers past academic performance, the research proposal is critical to winning the award. Quite simply, NSF is hoping to identify the future leaders of science and technology with this award."
A member of the honor societies Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi, Shelker is also a recipient of the Provost's Undergraduate Research Award and Jeanette G. Grasselli Brown Undergraduate Research Award.
She is originally from Copley, Ohio.
Mariel Betancourt is the assistant editor of Ohio Today.