Taylor Budzikowski | The Echo
Junior Erica Mitchell is one of 10 students nationwide to receive the Women Chemists Committee (WCC) and Eli Lilly Travel Award for Spring 2019.
On March 31-April 1 she traveled to Orlando, Florida to present her research at the 257th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).
While hundreds of students were accepted to present at the National Meeting each year, only 10 students received the Eli Lilly Travel Award. The award was a thousand dollars to cover travel expenses.
According to the ACS's website, the Eli Lilly Travel Award was presented to female chemists based on scientific merit of their research and financial need. Undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral chemists presenting for the first time at a national meeting are considered for the prestigious honor.
The WCC seeks to empower and advocate for women in the chemical field.
Mitchell is the first Taylor student to receive the Eli Lilly Travel Award. She is a Chemistry major with minors in Mathematics and Physics.
"It will mostly give me experience and let me connect with people I have heard of but have never talked to or introduced myself," Mitchell said.
Mitchell explained the prestigious award as an opportunity to become more comfortable presenting her research. She also had the opportunity to network with WCC members and top executives of the industry. Throughout the weekend, award winners were featured in a poster session and attended a WCC luncheon and private dinner.
She received the award alongside other female students from Ivy League schools and institutions known for academic excellence. The Fall 2018 WCC/Eli Lilly Travel Award winners include students from Boston University, Syracuse University and University of Pennsylvania.
"Her independence is really strong," Assistant Professor of Chemistry Brandon Magers said. "She is genuinely curious about the project and the chemistry answers that we are trying to get to."
Mitchell presented her computational chemistry research at the ACS National Meeting. Around twelve thousand people attend the ACS National Meeting each year and those who submit their research are usually accepted. As a part of her research, Mitchell studied the binding of a drug to a protein in human blood. She met with Magers weekly to discuss her research findings.
Mitchell dealt with the computational components of the research, while Belhaven University, a CCU school in Jackson, Mississippi, conducted the experimental research for the project.
Additionally, Mitchell accepted a Commendable Award for the American Chemical Society Student Chapter of Taylor University.
"We did a certain number of events and they had enough people and enough quality that we got a Commendable Award," Mitchell said.
Taylor's ACS chapter hosts events for professional growth and outreach throughout the year.
Magers expressed Mitchell's desire to pursue computational chemistry in graduate school based on her interest in the field and prior research experiences. For example, during Summer 2018 she did research at the University of Mississippi.
"Definitely I would do something similar to this in the future," Mitchell said. "Research definitely prepared me for post-college."