Student awarded fellowship for environmental research

Anna Lawson

Paul Fleischmann has been intrigued by all things science his whole life.

“I’ve always had an interest in science and scientific reasoning and figuring out how things work,” he said. “I became more interested in chemistry and biology taking classes at WKU while at the Gatton Academy.”

The Crestwood sophomore recently received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Greater Research Opportunity Fellowship. He is one of 40 students nationwide who received the honor.

This grant will give Fleischmann additional resources and opportunities to help him to further his research. The funding will benefit Fleischmann’s studies in many ways and help him to continue doing what he loves.

The chemistry and biology major is conducting environmental research alongside Shivendra Sahi, assistant director of the Applied Research and Technology Program.

Sahi said Fleischmann’s research will be very beneficial for his future.

“I think it is very important for youth to be part of research, especially in STEM discipline,” he said. “Innovation and research have moved this country among the best in the world.” Fleischmann said they are studying alfalfa and its ability to uptake excess phosphorus in soil in a process known as phytoremediation — the use of plants to remediate contaminated soil, such as soil that has been over-fertilized.

Fleischmann has also been working with Audra Jennings, director of the Office of Scholar Development, to complete the application for around six months.

“I helped Paul to conceptualize his application essays, worked with him to emphasize his strengths and unique qualifications in his essays and provided assistance in revising and refining his application materials,” Jennings said.

Cheryl Kirby-Stokes, coordinator for Nationally Competitive Opportunities, said any undergraduate research science students can do is great.

“WKU gives students a lot of opportunities to research,” she said. “It’s important for them to start on research projects now to make their applications much stronger.”

Jennings and the Office of Scholar Development provide guidance on becoming a more competitive applicant for national scholarships.

“I like to think that the Office of Scholar Development is in the business of helping students dream big and develop a plan to make those big dreams come true,” Jennings said. “It is an amazing opportunity to help students realize their dreams.”

Students who receive the award are granted support for the junior and senior year of undergraduate studies. The student gets up to $20,700 each academic year.

In addition, the EPA offers them an internship at one of their facilities during the summer of the recipient’s junior year. The student is awarded $8,600 for the internship.

“The funding I receive from this grant will enable me to travel to present my research and will help with paying for materials, analysis fees and more,” Fleischmann said.

This isn’t the only award or honor Fleischmann has received. He was also a winner of the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, which granted him the opportunity to travel abroad to Marrakech, Morocco and study Arabic.

Fleischmann also conducted research while at Gatton Academy when he was studying biology. He is also planning on traveling to New Delhi, India in January 2014. He is going there for a project funded by the National Science Foundation to study proteomics.

Other than wanting to travel and present his research, Fleischmann wants to publish an article about his research and findings. However, he has even bigger plans for his future.

“I plan to apply for a Boren Scholarship to spend next year abroad studying a critical language which I hope to be able to use in my future career,” he said. “I plan to pursue a career researching solutions to environmental problems, while encouraging collaboration between international and domestic research institutions.”