Alumna Kyla Semmendinger Named Phi Kappa Phi Fellow

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Kyla Semmendinger

MACON – Recent Mercer University graduate Kyla Semmendinger has been named one of 51 Phi Kappa Phi Fellows nationwide and will receive $5,000 for her first year of graduate study at Cornell University.

Semmendinger, who received her Bachelor of Science in Engineering summa cum laude during last month’s commencement, recently began research at Cornell, where she is pursuing her Master of Science and Ph.D. in environmental engineering with a focus on hydrology and watershed engineering.

“I am delighted that Phi Kappa Phi has recognized Kyla’s superior academic and research accomplishments achieved during her undergraduate career in the School of Engineering,” said Dr. Laura Lackey, dean and professor of environmental engineering at Mercer. “We recognize that Kyla is poised for success as she pursues her Ph.D. in environmental engineering at Cornell, and it’s gratifying that one of the oldest and most selective honor societies agrees.”

Semmendinger, from Bremen, majored in environmental engineering with minors in Spanish, chemistry and engineering for development as an undergraduate.

She participated in Mercer On Mission trips to Ecuador, where she investigated the impacts of artisanal small-scale gold-mining practices on microbial concentrations in drinking water, and to Kenya, where she monitored the efficacy of using biosand filters to treat water for drinking. Additionally, she performed research on low-cost shallow geothermal heating and cooling systems for households in Central Georgia.

“I am very fortunate to be named a Phi Kappa Phi Fellow,” said Semmendinger. “During my undergraduate career at Mercer, I received a unique research-based education with unending support from all the faculty and staff, specifically my advisers, Dr. Laura Lackey and Dr. Michael MacCarthy. Being named a Fellow is further proof that my experiences at Mercer will continue to provide a solid foundation on which to build a future career.”

Semmendinger served as president of the Society of Women Engineers, vice president of member development for Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, a member of Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, peer adviser and Bessie Tift Scholar. She worked as a preceptor in the Mathematics Department and as a member of the Student Admissions Team, and received the Outstanding Graduate in Environmental Engineering Award and a BEAR Award for Outstanding Campus Involvement.

“On behalf of the Mercer chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, let me share our congratulations to Kyla for being selected to receive a Phi Kappa Phi fellowship,” said Elizabeth Dankert Hammond, dean of the University Library, professor and faculty adviser for Mercer’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. “Ms. Semmendigner exemplies the ‘love of learning’ and personal qualities that honor both Mercer and Phi Kappa Phi. We are so proud of her accomplishments and know she will excel in her scholarship and service, now and in the future.”

Founded in 1897 at the University of Maine, Phi Kappa Phi is the nation’s oldest and most selective collegiate honor society for all academic disciplines. Its chapters are on more than 300 campuses in the U.S. and the Philippines. Each year, more than 30,000 members are initiated. Since its founding, the honor society has initiated more than 1.5 million members into its ranks.

About Mercer University School of Engineering

Mercer University’s School of Engineering, founded in 1985, offers innovative and academically challenging programs that provide students with a comprehensive education, featuring a solid foundation in mathematics and sciences, a core engineering curriculum, a range of courses in engineering specialties and a strong emphasis on communication technologies. The School is consistently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top three master’s-degree-level engineering schools in the Southeast. Known for its breadth of instruction in its undergraduate program and its five-year joint bachelor’s and master’s degree program, the School combines technical education with hands-on laboratory experience. Mercer engineers can look forward to joining fellow alumni in companies such as Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex, Lockheed Martin, Georgia Power, Siemens and Gulfstream Aerospace.

Kyle Sears
Kyle is the director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he coordinates hometown and university news releases and serves as editor of the News@Mercer e-newsletter and Reach magazine.​