Pellissippi State: Two grads take part in STEM-related Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Michelle-Lehman

Two graduates of Pellissippi State Community College have earned a place in TN-SCORE’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program, which provides a pathway for undergraduates to transition to a graduate program.

The vision of TN-SCORE, or Tennessee Solar Convention and Storage using Outreach, Research and Education, is to advance STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) research in Tennessee schools.

Michelle Lehmann will be an intern with Siris Laursen at the University of Tennessee, and Lucas Thal will pursue research at Vanderbilt University under the guidance of David Cliffel.

“I was ecstatic when I found out I’d been accepted for the internship,” said Lehmann. “I felt like all my hard work over the past couple of years had paid off and I was on the road to achieving my career goals.

“I am going to be a chemical engineering major at the University of Tennessee,” said Lehmann, who graduated from Pellissippi State in May. “I plan on working in research in alternate energy or developing cleaner, more efficient processes for industry. I’m a proponent of the principles of green chemistry and want to do what I can to reduce our impact on the environment.”

Lehmann’s research over the summer will involve developing catalysts to make energy conversion and storage of solar power more efficient. She also will work with a newer form of solar power that uses the principles of photosynthesis.

Lucas-ThalThal graduated from Pellissippi State in 2012 and is currently at UT pursuing a dual bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology and in chemistry. He’s on track to graduate in 2015. He plans to attend graduate school, then hopes to embark on a career in sustainable energy.

“I was overjoyed to find out I was chosen to be part of this competitive REU program,” said Thal.

“Over the course of 10 weeks this summer, I will be studying under Dr. Cliffel, whose research focuses on the electrochemistry of PS1, a redox protein involved in the light reactions of photosynthesis in plants, algae and cyanobacteria.”

Research Experiences for Undergraduates is a competitive, eight- to 10-week program in which students receive a $4,000 stipend, housing and supplies. Participating students must be enrolled full time at a Tennessee community college or four-year institution. Students present their research at the TN-SCORE annual conference.

For more information about Pellissippi State and its programs, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.