Graphene Instead of Guarding

If it hadn’t been for Project SEED, Julia Gensheimer, a Siemens Competition semifinalist, would have worked as a lifeguard during the summer. Julia sat down (for a moment) at the ACS National Meeting in San Francisco to share her experience.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m from Bowling Green, KY and attend a residential high school known as the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University. I take undergraduate level courses as a high school student and will graduate with more than 60 college credits.

When did you first get interested in chemistry?

I have always loved science, but I specifically became passionate for chemistry during my freshman year introductory course. I had wonderful teachers who taught the material in an interactive way with hands-on experiments and activities. It was my favorite class, and afterwards I continued to learn more about chemistry through more advanced classes and research.

How did you find out about Project SEED?

When I was accepted to the Academy, my research coordinator informed me of a local summer research opportunity with Western Kentucky University’s Institute for Combustion Science and Environmental Technology (ICSET). He explained that through Project SEED, students in my family’s income bracket could do real chemistry research. I immediately was interested and applied for the program. I had no prior knowledge of research, but my mentor, Dr. Yan Cao, as well as graduate students from around the world, taught me everything I needed to know. I never thought I would be able to have this kind of opportunity.

Can you talk more about your experience as a Project SEED student?

My Project SEED experience was wonderful. I was surprised by how much I could accomplish with a summer’s work in Project SEED. Matching a mentor and a student is very simple idea, but the impact is enormous. I learned what it was like to be a scientist and with the help of my mentor, I learned basic laboratory skills and how to write a scientific report. During the following fall, I became a semifinalist in the Siemens Competition for my Project SEED research. Then, I was able to publish my work in Vanderbilt University’s Young Scientist Journal. All of these amazing opportunities were appearing one after another and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t have done any of this without Project SEED.

Before I learned of Project SEED, I was planning on having a job as a lifeguard that summer. With the stipend, I was thrilled because I could actually do something that I loved. Since I had such a wonderful experience the first summer, I decided to continue my work at ICSET for a second summer with another Project SEED stipend, which I just completed. Once again, it was an exciting, productive summer and led to opportunities such as attending this conference today! I plan on taking this summer’s work and attending more conferences and submitting my work to other national competitions.

What are your future plans?

I plan on studying chemistry or biochemistry as an undergraduate and continuing chemistry research. After that, I would like to pursue an MD/PhD and become a physician scientist with a pediatric oncology research focus.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would just like to thank Project SEED. I’m very happy to have been able to participate in this program for two summers. I hope other students take advantage of this program because the opportunities are truly endless!

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Project SEED student Julia Gensheimer
Julia Gensheimer presented her Project SEED research on graphene at the ACS National Meeting in San Francisco.

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