Fighting Terrorism through Science

A few years ago on a Monday morning Stephanie Pleasant walked into her first undergraduate chemistry lab as a nursing student at South Plains College. By Wednesday of that week she was certain she wanted to be a chemist and on Friday she was registering to attend her first ACS National Meeting. “Within the first three days in the lab, I could see myself doing chemistry,” she says, “I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I knew I liked it and haven’t looked back.”

Currently a rising senior at Texas Tech University, Stephanie is passionately pursuing a career in chemistry. She is President of the TTU SACNAS Chapter and was accepted into the ACS Scholars Program in 2011, a select group of talented underrepresented minority students who receive financial support, mentoring, and internship opportunities as they earn undergraduate degrees in the chemical sciences. Stephanie thinks the mentoring component distinguishes the ACS Scholars Program from other scholarships. She describes the influence of her chemistry mentor Dr. Jaclyn Cañas-Carrell: “There’s no way I would have been able to make it this far without her help. She’s a catalyst for everything I’ve done. Whenever I have a question, she is there for me.”

With the recommendation and support of Dr. Cañas-Carrell, Stephanie is participating in the US Department of Energy Summer Undergraduate Laboratory Internship program at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). At PNNL she is helping to determine the source of chemical threat agents. “These are real-world problems and the research is meaningful and impactful—fighting terrorism through science,” she says. Stephanie plans to continue conducting research for national security by earning her PhD in chemistry and working for the US government. As she puts it, “Chemistry has been my dream.”

The ACS Scholars Program encourages high-potential African American, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian students to pursue undergraduate degrees in the chemical and engineering sciences. The program provides scholarships, undergraduate research internships, and mentoring. Scholarships range from $2,500 for freshmen to $5,000 for seniors. Donors may contribute all or part of a single scholarship; pledge a renewable scholarship; or sponsor several ACS Scholars.


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ACS Scholar Stephanie Pleasant with her mentor Dr. Cañas-Carrell
ACS Scholar Stephanie Pleasant (right) is grateful for her mentor Dr. Jaclyn Cañas-Carrell (left), "She's a catalyst for everything I've done."