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Chemistry Majors Recognized for Excellence by Goldwater Foundation

Alisa Leavesley and Karen Corbett
Alisa Leavesley                                    Karen Corbett

By James Hong ('14), JMU Public Affairs

A pair of JMU chemistry majors has been recognized by the Barry M. Goldwater Foundation for their outstanding academic work.

Karen Corbett, a junior from Williamsburg, was one of 11 students in Virginia and one of 282 nationwide to receive the Goldwater Scholarship. Alisa Leavesley of Charlottesville, also a junior, received an honorable mention from the foundation.

Corbett and Leavesely both plan to get doctorates in chemistry after finishing their bachelor's degrees at JMU.

Corbett, a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies, as well as the JMU Honors Program, is particularly interested in researching protein malfunctions that play a role in diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and type 2 diabetes.

"I would like to have some sort of application, especially medically, to my research," she said.

Corbett said she chose JMU over other schools because of the opportunity to do undergraduate research.

“It’s a really good experience. When you’re a freshman, you don’t necessarily have to know exactly what you are going to study, but you learn the techniques,” she said. "I think JMU has a fantastic undergraduate research program in chemistry.”

Leavesley was one of six Virginia students to receive an honorable mention from the foundation. Leavesley’s interest is in polymer chemistry and applying it toward biomedical sciences.

Like Corbett, the opportunity to do undergraduate research is what sold her on JMU. The ease of interacting with faculty and accessing equipment without having to compete with graduate students have “completely paid off,” she said.

Leavesley said she was ecstatic that she and Corbett were recognized by the Goldwater Foundation.

“It says a lot about our department and the professors,” she said.

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation is a federally endowed agency established in 1986 honoring Sen. Barry M. Goldwater. It was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. Scholarship winners can receive up to $7,500 to meet educational expenses.

Published April 18, 2012