Emily Lipscomb, a senior majoring in civil and environmental engineering at West Virginia University, is the recipient of a 2013 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship that will support her work to identify water pollution sources.

“I first became interested in the NSF Fellowship when Dr. (Jennifer) Weidhaas encouraged me to apply,” said Lipscomb, a native of Swanton, Md. “The NSF GRFP offers an incredible opportunity for students in science and engineering to further their graduate education while alleviating the financial burden. I was also interested in the fellowship because of the freedom it offers for me to pursue my research interests.”

The current focus of Lipscomb’s work is the development of a microbial source-tracking method that can be used to identify water pollution resulting from poultry litter. Lipscomb started working on the project under Weidhaas’ guidance as part of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program.

“Emily did such great work,” said Weidhaas, assistant professor, who noted she expects two papers to be published as a result of Lipscomb’s work. “She continued working part time in my lab over the school year to finish out her project.”

NSF Graduate Research Fellowships are extremely competitive and are used to support the most promising graduate students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Lipscomb will receive $30,000 per year for three years to support her research as well as additional provisions to cover her graduate school tuition.

“Dr. Weidhaas has played a huge role in encouraging my development as a researcher,” Lipscomb said. “She offered me my first research experience and has continued to advise me for the last year. She has mentored me through designing and conducting experiments, writing and submitting journal articles, and helped me find opportunities to present our work.

“She has also been a fantastic mentor as I applied for graduate school and began making decisions regarding my graduate studies,” Lipscomb added. “Her guidance and feedback regarding my NSF GRFP application was also instrumental in helping me to submit a competitive application.”

While Lipscomb is still pondering where she will conduct her graduate research, she is also exploring additional research options. “A topic of interest for me is antibiotic resistance genes as a pollutant and their role in promoting the spread of antibiotic resistance in environmental systems,” she said.



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CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon
304-293-4086; mary.dillon@mail.wvu.edu