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USC A Top Producer in Nation for Hollings Scholars

Eight rising juniors at the University of South Carolina have been chosen as 2016 Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholars. This year's recipients, Christian Brown, Mary "Katie" Frame, Kayla Gardner, Olivia Harris, Rita Hjelm, Leon Tran, Sierra Wachala, and Amaelia Zyck, bring the total number of USC Hollings Scholars to 42 over the 12 years of this national competition, with 17 won in the past two years alone. This makes the University one of the top Hollings Scholars producers over the past three years and second in the nation during the 2015-2016 academic year.

Participation in the Hollings Scholarship Program exposes rising juniors and seniors to the mission of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and to our nation's long history of oceanic and atmospheric stewardship, reflected in the dedicated career of retired South Carolina Senator Ernest F. Hollings. Hollings Scholars are expected to become scientists, policy-makers, or educators in the future US oceanic and atmospheric workforce. The class of 2016 Hollings Scholars includes 125 students from across the country.

Hollings Scholars study a variety of disciplines including biological, life, and agricultural sciences; physical sciences; mathematics; engineering; computer and information sciences; social and behavioral science; and teacher education. The scholarship provides up to $9,500 of academic assistance per school year for full-time study during the junior and senior years. A required, 10-week, paid ($700/week) summer internship including travel and living expenses is also included.

Brown is a member of the South Carolina Honors College, majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She is also conducting research on the epigenetic effects of panaxynol in macrophages as part of the Hofseth Lab at the University of South Carolina's School of Pharmacy. While at USC, Brown has received a chemistry department award and an artist in residence grant. Brown is a member of the American society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and will participate in their Capitol Hill day where students from around the country travel to Washington D.C. to meet with their congressional representatives at the end of this month. She plans a career in pharmaceutical research, design, and patient care.

Frame is double majoring in Marine Science and Chemistry in the College of Arts and Science. As a research assistant in Dr. Claudia Benitez-Nelson's lab, Frame is researching biogeochemical oceanography, specifically phosphorus concentrations in the ocean. She also assists first year students in Chemistry and Marine Science courses as a University of South Carolina tutor. Frame is an Adams Scholar and an active member of both Students Engaged in Aquatic Science (SEAS) and Alpha Lambda Delta Honors Society. She plans to pursue a master's degree in Chemical Oceanography and to teach at the university level.

Gardner is a McNair Scholar and member of the South Carolina Honors College, pursuing a major in Marine Science with minors in Math and Chemistry. She is currently involved with two research labs: one on USC's campus with Dr. Tammi Richardson, and one at Mote Marine Laboratory with Dr. Vince Lovko. Gardner worked with Dr. Lovko as part of her summer National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates in the summer of 2015 and will return to the lab as an intern for summer 2016. Gardner is a member of the NSF funded Promoting Geoscience Research, Education, and Success Program (PROGRESS) as well as a recipient of the Ocean Sciences Mentoring program in 2016. She plans to obtain a PhD in Biological Oceanography and continue to research and travel.

Harris is a Biology major, minoring in Psychology and Environmental Studies, and a member of the South Carolina Honors College. The recipient of the McNair Scholarship, she is also the 2016 Louis Stokes-South Carolina Alliance for Minority Participation Scholarship and a two time U.S. Navy Anchor Scholarship recipient. Her undergraduate research work is under Dr. Dan Speiser on visual ecology. This summer Harris will be in Singapore as part of a National Science Foundation sponsored research experience and will work on biodegradable structural films for ocular drug delivery. Harris plans to pursue a career as an ecologist or conversation biologist.

Hjelm is a Capstone Scholar who is majoring in Marine Science with a focus in Biological Sciences. She is a recipient of the McKissick Scholarship and is a member of Phi Mu fraternity. Hjelm is a research assistant in Dr. Ryan Rykaczewski's lab on USC's campus. She looks forward to studying abroad in Australia this fall. Hjelm plans to pursue a master's degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation.

Tran is double majoring in Biology and Environmental Science in the College of Arts and Science. He is a recipient of the Watson-Brown Scholarship. Under the direction of Dr. Carol Boggs, Tran is conducting research here on the University of South Carolina's campus. He has also studied the functional and behavioral ecology in butterflies at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, CO, where he will return this summer. Tran hopes to pursue a PhD in Ecology and Evolution and have a career as an ecologist.

Wachala is a member of the College of Arts and Sciences and is pursuing a major in Marine Science. During the summer of 2015, Wachala worked on a research project observing the phenology of shrimp and how they are being influenced by climate change. She is a recipient of the Woodrow Scholarship. Wachala plans to become a professor at a research institution.

Zyck is a Capstone Scholar who is majoring in Marine Science with a minor in Spanish. A recipient of the McKissick Scholars Award and Wrigley Sponsored National Merit Special Scholarship, she has also received a Magellan Voyager Travel Award to present her research at the Benthic Ecology Meeting. Zyck's research includes work with mussel larvae under Dr. Hilbish. As a member of SEAS, she has served as the interim events coordinator and was recently named the treasurer. Zyck is also a student leader for an on campus ministry, CRU, and a member of the SCUBA Club. She plans to work conducting research on coral reef conservation.

University of South Carolina Hollings Scholars were assisted by faculty advisors Drs. Claudia Benitez-Nelson in the School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment, Jean Ellis in the School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment and Geography, and Gwen Geidel, Undergraduate Director in the School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment in Earth and Ocean Sciences. Dr. Benitez-Nelson notes, "the Hollings Scholarship is a fabulous opportunity for undergraduate students interested in pursuing marine and atmospheric research and policy. It is one of the top scholarships in the country for those students interested in addressing a suite of environment issues. The large numbers of our students who continue to receive this scholarship attests to their outstanding stewardship to our environment." Dr. Geidel echoed "When I work with these students, read their goals, and hear of their life ambitions, they truly demonstrate that they have the capacity to be stewards of the oceans and atmosphere and are preparing to educate not only the next generation, but the community as a whole."

Hollings Scholars were also aided by the University's Office of Fellowships & Scholar Programs ( Carolina students interested in applying for national fellowships are encouraged to contact the office for assistance.

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