Amanda Smythers, a second-year graduate student in the Department of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been awarded both a 2021 Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship as well as a 2021 Eastman Chemistry Fellowship in Analytical Chemistry and Polymer Characterization.
The Ford Fellowship is a three-year fellowship is administered by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that awards students who are committed to improving representation in higher education by using diversity as a resource to enhance higher education. Fellows are selected based on their previous scholarly productivity, their promise for future achievement in research, and their sustained engagement and empowerment of underrepresented communities.
The Eastman Chemistry Fellowship in Analytical Chemistry and Polymer Characterization is an $8,000 summer fellowship that selects students based on their research accomplishments, research potential, leadership, academic record, and overall career potential in chemistry.
“I am truly honored to receive these awards and am grateful for the vote of confidence in my research and other work thus far,” Smythers said. “I have been tremendously fortunate to have amazing mentors who have modeled what excellence in science and leadership means, and hope that I can continue to pay that forward throughout my time at Carolina.”
Smythers’ work in the laboratory of Prof. Leslie Hicks uses mass spectrometry, a powerful analytical technique, to understand fundamental protein signaling networks in diverse organisms. By understanding how these organisms adapt and respond to their environment, researchers can replicate these networks for biomimetic and human health applications. Smythers’ work is currently funded by a $10,000 NC NASA Space Grant Fellowship and helped earn her an honorable mention for a trainee award from the U.S. Human Proteome Organization.
Since arriving in Chapel Hill in 2019, Smythers has coauthored five publications, including three for which she was the primary author. She mentors two undergraduate students in the Hicks laboratory and serves as the program manager for SUROC, the department of chemistry’s NSF-funded REU program. Outside of the laboratory, Smythers serves on the Executive Cabinet of the Graduate and Professional Student Federation, the board of Allies for Minorities and Women in Science and Engineering, and the grant writing team for Women in Science Promoting Inclusion in Research Experiences (WinSPIRE), a summer program for high school students.
“Amanda constantly pushes herself to go above and beyond both inside and outside of the laboratory,” Prof. Hicks said. “Despite being at Carolina for less than two years, she has already made impressive advances in research and mentorship, and I expect that she will continue to excel throughout her doctoral studies and well into her career as a chemist.”