UCF Chemistry Student Receives National Honor


University of Central Florida undergraduate chemistry student Samantha Mensah won the Winifred Burks-Houck Undergraduate Award scholarship from the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers.

The award is only presented to one undergraduate student in the United States every year. Mensah also attended NOBCChE’s annual conference in November in Raleigh, North Carolina. There, she attended an award ceremony and presented her research.

Mensah is a senior in the UCF Department of Chemistry majoring in chemistry and minoring in nanoscale science and technology. She is set to graduate in May of 2017 and is involved with many organizations on campus. She hopes to pursue a doctoral degree in chemistry after graduation and to eventually work in a laboratory.

Mensah was recommended for the award by Michael Aldorondo-Jeffries, the director of the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement program. The program is designed to prepare either first-generation college students or traditionally underrepresented college students for doctoral studies. Mensah is a McNair scholar.

“The Ronald E. McNair program and all the staff of the Advanced Academic Programs office has helped me greatly,” Mensah said.

The research that Mensah presented at the NOBCChE annual conference was conducted through the University of California San Diego’s STARS program for students planning on attending graduate school. The work is related to smart tattoos, which are tattoos that can detect chemicals in a person’s perspiration. Mensah won the best undergraduate poster award at the conference for the STARS research.

Mensah said that receiving the scholarship is an honor. She credits UCF and the chemistry faculty with being a significant part of why she won.

“I have been fortunate to have Dr. Karin Chumbimuni-Torres in the chemistry department as a mentor since freshman year,” Mensah said. “She is extremely supportive of my goals and is always eager to send glowing letters of recommendation for summer research experiences. The chemistry department, especially our chair Dr. Cherie Yestrebsky, has been integral, giving me academic support and personal support whenever needed.” Mensah said “Many people feel that attending a school as big as UCF causes you to be lost in the crowd, but my professors and mentors have prevented me from ever feeling insignificant. Being a UCF knight has really given me so many opportunities to succeed and exceed my potential.”

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