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Chemistry Graduate Student Receives NASA Fellowship University News
For release: June 14, 2010

For press information, contact Gabrielle Maxey, 901/678-2843


Jill Williamson
Jill Williamson
Jill Williamson, chemistry graduate student and member of the Mobile Analytical Monitoring and Miniaturization Laboratory, has received the NASA Harriett G. Jenkins Pre-doctoral Fellowship from NASA and the United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corporation.

The fellowship provides up to three years of funding and support for full-time graduate students who are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Williamson will receive $28,000 in stipend and tuition plus $10,000 in assistance for each year of the award.

This fellowship will support Williamson’s research, which focuses on developing an online, fully automated system that monitors water disinfectant silver (I) ion concentrations. This system will incorporate “sensor-on-a-valve” technologies to allow hands-free analysis to mission specialists aboard the International Space Station for future long-term endeavors.

“Jill’s award is an outstanding achievement that speaks to the high quality of her background and her research area,” said Dr. Gary Emmert, associate professor and graduate coordinator in the Department of Chemistry. “She is one of only 20 graduate students in the nation to be awarded this fellowship. Not only will this award support Jill and her research, which has close ties to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, but it also creates additional opportunities for other students in her research group. Jill has demonstrated that she is a true leader in our department and our research group. I am very proud that she is one of my students and that she chose the University of Memphis Chemistry Department to pursue her Ph.D.”

Williamson, who is from Ferguson, Mo., earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry (with American Chemical Society accreditation) from the University of Central Missouri. Her parents are John F. Williamson Jr. and the late Janis K. Williamson.

“I had opportunities to pursue my education elsewhere,” Williamson said,  “but I am confident I made the right decision in selecting the University of Memphis for my graduate career. Under the exceptional guidance of Dr. Emmert, my vision in becoming a member of the NASA team has become more clear. The Harriet G. Jenkins Fellowship Award marks the beginning of my future collaborations with NASA. I feel privileged to accept this opportunity to reach out to my community and to emphasize the importance of following your dreams and continuing the pursuit of knowledge within the sciences.”

The award’s namesake, Dr. Harriett G. Jenkins, has been an innovative and effective change agent throughout her life. For more than 18 years she was assistant administrator for equal opportunity programs at NASA. In that role she managed exemplary programs and strategies that garnered management commitment and involvement. These programs ranged from the hiring and advancement of minorities, women, and individuals with disabilities within the agency, to the settlement of allegations of discrimination.

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