Kennesaw State honors student researchers in annual Birla Carbon Scholars Symposium

·3 min read

Sep. 7—Kennesaw State University recently honored 10 students at the annual Birla Carbon Scholars Research Symposium.

"We are here today to recognize our student scholars and our partnership with Birla Carbon," said Kojo Mensa-Wilmot, dean of the College of Science and Mathematics. "Because of this partnership and the guidance of their faculty mentors, our student scientists have the opportunity to delve into an important topic for a summer and produce groundbreaking research."

In the spring, the College of Science and Mathematics selected each of the students to receive a $4,000 stipend to pursue research during a summer program established by Birla Carbon, a worldwide chemical manufacturer.

The 10 scholars were chosen based on the recommendations of faculty members, submission of an undergraduate research project abstract, and a grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Recipients worked with their sponsoring faculty members on their proposed research projects in six departments within CSM.

The Birla Carbon Team judges awarded KSU senior Ariane Charland-Martin, a chemistry major from Woodstock, the top prize for her research on creating environmentally friendly materials for technological applications. Working in the laboratory of assistant professor of chemistry Graham Collier, Charland-Martin discovered a substance that made polymer materials degradable while retaining properties effective for electronic applications, such as solar cells or thin films for sunglasses.

"Polymers currently available are usually not reusable or recyclable, or they're made through less eco-friendly methods," said Charland-Martin, an Honors student in the Double Owl program who is also pursuing a master's degree in chemical sciences. "By designing these polymers with a degradable building block, we can maintain their effectiveness and make them more environmentally adaptable."

Charland-Martin's research followed the path of other studies in Collier's lab, which are aimed at simplifying the process of making polymers for electronic and light-related applications.

This year's scholars, their majors and their faculty mentors included:

— Riley Bennett, chemistry major, mentored by Mark Mitchell, professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

— Ariane Charland-Martin, chemistry major, mentored by Graham Collier, assistant professor of chemistry.

— Noam Lewit, chemistry major, mentored by Mohammad Abdul Halim, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

— Kieran MacDonald, physics major, mentored by Kisa Ranasinghe, associate professor of physics.

— Lauren Massaro, physics major, mentored by Mahmoud Asmar, assistant professor of physics.

— David Melcher, biology major, mentored by Mohammad Abdul Halim, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

— Sandra Nguyen, biology major, mentored by Brandon Carpenter, assistant professor of molecular biology.

— Isabel Ouko, mathematics major, mentored by Glenn Young, assistant professor of mathematics.

— Kailen Parks, chemistry major, mentored by Martin Hudson, professor of biology.

— Connor Welch, chemistry major, mentored by Michael Stollenz, associate professor of inorganic chemistry.

Since 2014, funds provided by Birla Carbon have enabled 93 Birla Carbon Scholars to participate in research. In 2019, Birla Carbon reaffirmed its pledge to the program by extending the agreement for another five years and adding $275,000 to the commitment. Terence Norman, director of human resources in the Americas at Birla Carbon, said the company looks forward to this event every year to showcase young scientists.

"Just when I think this symposium can't get any better, it exceeds my expectations," Norman said. "I saw some truly impressive presentations here today, and I know the future is bright for these researchers. Congratulations to all the scholars. Your hard work is paying off."

Along with the $4,000 stipend each scholar received, Charland-Martin received an additional $2,000 in travel funds to present her research at a national or regional conference.

For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.