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Chemistry master's student wins prestigious scholarship

By Kelly Foss | July 12, 2013

Jessica Besaw

A chemistry master’s student has won a prestigious Julie Payette-Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) research scholarship.  

Jessica Besaw completed her undergraduate degree at Memorial in the spring and will begin the second phase of her academic career in September.

 The Julie Payette-NSERC Research Scholarship is awarded to the 24 most outstanding applicants in NSERC’s postgraduate scholarships “M” competition and is based on academic excellence, research ability and potential, and communication, interpersonal and leadership abilities. The scholarship will provide $25,000 towards one year of study.
 
One of the faculty’s strongest undergraduate academic achievers, Ms. Besaw made the dean’s list for four consecutive years and received the chemistry medal for highest academic standing at convocation. While she agrees academic success has been important to her, she says this scholarship is about much more.

 “This scholarship wasn't just about academics and having the highest grade,” she said. “There were other criteria they were looking for including communications, leadership and interpersonal abilities. The reason I stood out, I think, is because as an undergraduate student I was chosen to represent Memorial at the London International Youth Science Forum.

“In addition, I have worked as a teaching assistant and tutored high school students full time. I have also been a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and involved in Memorial’s intramural sports teams. I have also written and directed a play, which was performed by high school students at the regional drama festival competition. This role enabled me to encourage others to bring their own skills to the table.”

The recipient of three NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards, including one at Queen’s University, Ms. Besaw thought carefully about where she wanted to do her graduate studies.

“The reason I stayed here to do a master’s at Memorial is, while I looked around at other projects and had gotten proposals to work at other universities, I found the project I had here was better than any other project I could have gotten elsewhere. My project will include computational chemistry work with Dr. Chris Rowley in chemistry and experimental protein work with Dr. Valerie Booth in biochemistry,” she said.

“It combines two things I really love to do. I thought when I did my master’s I would have to choose between them, but Dr. Rowley contacted Dr. Booth and proposed they do a collaboration together for my benefit. So I will be doing experimental work by synthesizing proteins and characterizing them with NMR, and then running molecular dynamic simulations on high performance computers. It’s exactly what I wanted and all I had to do was ask!”


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