Section Navigation

Appalachian student takes top honors for undergraduate research presentation at SERMACS meeting

D06_11Sylvester06.jpgBOONE—Amanda Sylvester almost skipped a regional chemistry conference. She had planned to study for an upcoming test instead of making the trip. Now she is glad she didn’t.

The junior chemistry major from Appalachian State University won the grand prize for undergraduate poster presentations at the 58th Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society (SERMACS).

She received a tablet style PC notebook computer, and chemistry and graphing software.

Her research, conducted under the guidance of Dr. Michael Ramey, looks at chemicals that might improve the efficiency of batteries, such as fuel cell batteries.

Ramey is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemistry. “We are definitely emphasizing more undergraduate research efforts in our department,” he said. “Amanda’s award illustrates the success we are having with undergraduate research.”

Sylvester was one of seven students from Appalachian and among more than 100 undergraduates from universities across the Southeast presenting at the meeting.

To participate in the meeting, students first had to submit an abstract of their work to The American Chemical Society for review. Those selected to attend the conference created a 4-foot by 6-foot poster illustrating their work.

Students discussed their posters and research with other students, professors and judges.

Sylvester had presented her research earlier in the year during the Annual Celebration of Student Research and Creative Endeavors held each spring at Appalachian. “It can be intimidating when you talk to other people about your research,” Sylvester said. “Participating in a research presentation on campus gives you more confidence.”

Sylvester is the daughter of Don and Connie Sylvester of Sanford. She graduated from Green Hope High School in Cary. Her teachers in middle school and high school sparked her interest in science.

“I had really great chemistry teachers in high school,” Sylvester said. “I liked chemistry, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. Appalachian helped me see what career choices were available.”

Sylvester says her undergraduate research opportunities are preparing her for the next step in her career: attending graduate school and teaching at the college level someday.

“I have become more comfortable in the lab setting, working on my own, and with problem solving. Having that experience will prepare for the type of things I will encounter in graduate school,” she said.

Dr. Claudia Cartaya-Marin, chair of Appalachian’s Department of Chemistry, said providing research opportunities for students augments their education.

“The faculty of the Department of Chemistry is committed to providing an excellent education to our students and we believe that undergraduate research is a pivotal part of their education,” she said. “We provide research opportunities not only to our chemistry majors but to other majors who are interested in performing research in chemistry. As a result of these research experiences, our students have represented Appalachian well at regional and national meetings.”


Chemistry major Amanda Sylvester, right, won the grand prize for her undergraduate poster presentation at the Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society. Sylvester is looking at chemicals that might improve the conductivity and efficiency of batteries used in fuel cell applications. Her faculty mentor is Dr. Michael Ramey, an assistant professor of chemistry at Appalachian State University. (Appalachian photo by University Photographer Mike Rominger.)