MACON — Mercer University juniors Kyla Hudson and Nuren Lara were recently selected as AMGEN Scholars and will spend 10 weeks this summer conducting research at the California Institute of Technology.
Hudson and Lara are the latest Mercer students to participate in the highly selective program designed to prepare STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) undergraduates for top-tier graduate and professional schools and provide research experiences at world-class research universities.
As an AMGEN Scholar, Hudson will conduct research in the lab of Dr. Mitchio Okumura, professor of chemical physics at Caltech, exploring the connection between organic chemical radical reactions and physical chemistry using cavity ring-down spectroscopy.
“The project dives into the mechanisms of aromatic formation to explore the overall mechanisms of aerosol and soot formation as well as the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon,” said Hudson, who worked with Dr. Okumura last summer as part of the Caltech WAVE Fellows Program.
At Mercer, Hudson is a supplemental instructor for chemistry and actively involved in research. She has participated in a Mercer On Mission trip to Guyana where she analyzed mercury in the atmosphere and made maps that showed the mercury concentrations. She also collected paint samples for lead analysis.
Hudson is being inducted into Gamma Sigma Epsilon, a chemistry honor society. Additionally, she belongs to Omicron Delta Kappa and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies. She has also been on the President’s List for several semesters.
“I am very excited and grateful for the opportunity to get to do summer research,” Hudson said.
Lara, from Cartersville, is a chemistry major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He plans to attend graduate school to pursue a doctorate in chemistry, with plans to become a chemistry professor.
As an AMGEN Scholar, Lara will conduct research in the lab of Dr. Karthish Manthiram, professor of chemical engineering and chemistry at Caltech, studying electrochemical organic chemistry. Specifically, he will research the synthesis of commercially valuable polymers using a process called electrochemical carboxylation. This process uses carbon dioxide to create value-added chemicals and is a potential way to reduce net carbon dioxide emissions.
“It is a field I have recently become interested in due to its application in the sustainable production of many commercially produced chemicals and drugs. My interests lie mainly in sustainability, so this will be a great opportunity,” said Lara, who previously studied solar water splitting cells with Dr. Nathan Lewis at Caltech.
At Mercer, he has conducted research with Dr. Caryn Seney, professor of chemistry, and Dr. Adam Kiefer, Distinguished University Professor of chemistry, since his freshman year. He is a supplemental instructor for general chemistry, and last summer, he traveled to Guyana with Dr. Kiefer as part of Mercer On Mission to perform research on atmospheric mercury pollution. He will return to Guyana this summer to research various topics related to heavy metal contamination.
A Stamps Scholar, Lara was recently invited to join Phi Kappa Phi honor society and is frequently on the President’s List. Additionally, he is a part of Omicron Delta Kappa, Gamma Sigma Epsilon and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies.
“I love research because you always get to learn something new. You are always on the frontier of a field and are investigating subjects and phenomena that no one else has,” Lara said. “Even when you fail, which is most of the time, you are always learning.”
As AMGEN Scholars, Hudson and Lara also will participate in professional development sessions, a summer seminar day, and an AMGEN convention. They will also present their work at conferences at Caltech and the University of California, Los Angeles.
AMGEN Scholars is an international program made possible through a 17-year, $70 million commitment from the AMGEN Foundation. Each year, the program provides hundreds of selected undergraduate students with the opportunity to engage in hands-on research experiences at 24 premier educational and research institutions across the U.S., Europe, Asia, Australia and Canada.
About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. With approximately 9,000 students enrolled in 12 schools and colleges, on major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; medical school sites in Macon, Savannah and Columbus; and at regional academic centers in Henry and Douglas counties, Mercer is ranked among the top tier of national research universities by U.S. News & World Report. The Mercer Health Sciences Center includes the University’s School of Medicine and Colleges of Nursing, Health Professions and Pharmacy. Mercer is affiliated with five teaching hospitals – Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center and Piedmont Macon Medical Center in Macon; Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah; and Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare in Columbus. The University also has an educational partnership with Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer Medicine, the clinical faculty practice of the School of Medicine, is based in Macon and operates additional clinics in Sumter, Peach, Clay, Putnam and Harris counties. Mercer is one of only 293 institutions nationwide to shelter a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society; one of eight institutions to hold membership in the Georgia Research Alliance; and the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit mercer.edu.