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Hannah Michael presents at national conference


Junior biochemistry major Hannah Michael was awarded funding to present at the annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists‘ (ABRCMS) national conference in Anaheim, California.

Hannah Michael '24 biochemistry

At this conference, she presented her research from her prestigious summer internship she earned with REU. Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), is a program with the National Science Foundation. She spent last summer at Middle Tennessee State University doing organic chemistry synthesis research with high tech characterizations involving x-ray crystallography.

“I had heard of the conference initially from Dr. Brooks. She had been to the conference before and thought that it would be a good idea for me to submit my abstract. I was presenting my research that I did from over the summer. My research was about looking at a compound that is naturally found in flowers, and it also fluorescences. I wanted to add and change different groups that were attached to the compound to see if it affects the fluorescence of the compound. I worked on several different additions and substitutions throughout my eight weeks in Tennessee. Being able to go to the conference was a great experience for me. I had learned a lot of good professional skills and a lot about myself. I learned about how to present in a formal way, how to network. The network was definitely a big thing that I didn’t realize was very easy. All you have to do is to just talk to people and there is someone new in your network. One of the biggest things that I learned about myself was to be confident and don’t let anything stop you. Before doing both the conference and the REU, I thought that a lot of people would hold me back. But the only person that is stopping you from being your best self is yourself. And that is definitely the best experience that I had gained from doing the conference and REU.”

Hannah shares her REU experience

The program is designed to give students the opportunity to attend larger schools with more advanced technology, devices, and equipment that they might not otherwise have access to at their current school. I learned about the program from Dr. Lesher during one of my advising meetings last fall. While looking at fall classes, she asked if I had thought about summer internships. Initially I said no, it wasn’t really on my radar, and that’s when she presented the REU as an opportunity for me, and she walked me through the application process. I ended up applying to three separate REU programs, Perdue, Tulane, and Middle Tennessee State University. It was the longest month of my life waiting to hear back! I was accepted to both Tulane and Middle Tennessee State, and ended up choosing Middle Tennessee due to the fact that the research they were doing was more in line with what I want to do in the future. Middle Tennessee was also a smaller program with about ten people giving me the opportunity to work closely with my professor for the summer.

The REU was an eight week program where we focused on X-Ray Crystallography. It was the most complicated thing I ever had to learn! During the REU I worked with Dr. Scott Handy and he ended up being a great professor. I was tasked with a project that was an extension of what he had been working on the previous summer. Essentially I was making compounds to look at how fluorescent an object is. In this instance, the object was a snapdragon flower, which has a chemical in it that is naturally fluorescent. We were basically taking that chemical and modifying it to see if we added or took away something whether it would still be fluorescent under the same conditions. It was so cool to see my work come together, and at the end of the summer I was able to present my findings to the group.

The eight weeks at the REU solidified my decision to pursue a career in the sciences, and has helped me think about how I want to narrow down which path I might want to take. A career in biochemistry could mean a lot of different things. But now I know that I want to be in a lab working with chemicals and I can see myself doing this work twenty years from now and still enjoying it.

Congrats, Hannah, on your hard work and research! We’re proud of you.

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