Local female students lauded for STEM strengths

By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald
Photo Courtesy Brown Foundation

Along with several other schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, St. Scholastica Academy has been on the receiving end of awards from The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation over the years.

“The Brown Foundation has been so good to our Catholic schools,” said Donna Wallace, advancement director at St. Scholastica Academy in Covington.

In recent years, St. Scholastica students have earned scholarship money and recognition as part of the foundation’s Emmy Noether Awards to encourage young women to pursue laboratory or field research careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and medicine) fields.

“We’re trying to identify these women earlier to help them advance in a career in research,” said Jonathan Baynham, education program administrator at the Brown Foundation.

St. Scholastica’s students Hailey Rowbatham and Anna Champ received awards.

Rowbatham, a 2018 graduate, was named, in her junior year, a gold medalist – the top Emmy Noether award – and will receive $25,000 a year for up to three years when she enters a graduate-level STEM program.

She just completed her first year at the University of California – Berkeley and is a civil and environmental engineering major currently working as a research assistant for the Berkeley/University of the Philippines collaboration project involving the deployment of an autonomous surface vehicle to three different sites in the Philippines, Wallace said.

“I am part of the research team under UCB Project Scientists Dr. Thomas Azwell and Dr. Alasdair Cohen, working to monitor human impacts on water quality in these three locations,” Rowbatham said. “I assist in information regarding the data acquisition formats and calibration procedures of sensors on the Liquid Robotics wave glider.”

Anna Champ

Anna Champ, a 2019 SSA graduate, was recognized as a 2019 Emmy Noether Scholar, the only local archdiocesan Catholic school student awarded this year, Wallace said.

The Emmy Noether Scholars don’t receive scholarships, said Baynham, but are recognized as aspiring female scientists for already conducting research at a major university or scientific institution and also for having a median ACT score of 34.5.

Champ’s research was done at LSU Health Sciences Center, where she explored the physiological effects of chronic ethanol consumption on a recently discovered fat taste receptor, CD36. At Southeastern Louisiana University’s District competition, she placed first in environmental science and placed second at LSU’s state rally.  She will attend Texas A&M University and pursue dual degrees in chemistry and philosophy.

For graduate school, Champ hopes to attend Stanford University and pursue research on nuclear fusion energy and the environment. Champ was one of five 2019 SSA valedictorians and a Student Council Executive Board member.

Award changed

The Amy Noether award was first established in 2017. It changed in 2018 to give more young females a chance to earn scholarship money for their advanced studies, Baynham said. There is now one gold winner, and two silver medalists who are awarded $25,000 each. Only seniors apply as opposed to juniors and seniors (in 2017) interested in pursuing a STEM research career.

Tina Bouzon, with the Brown Foundation, said it is based on merit, not financial need. It is open to female seniors in high school in Louisiana and Mississippi interested in pursuing a STEM research career. It is named after a German mathematician who taught in the United States and is credited with discovering the law of symmetry.

The June 4 award ceremony was held at the Louisiana Cancer Research Center, where lab tours with hands-on activities are conducted for awardees. Emmy Noether Scholars are invited to apply for lab research internships, Bouzon said.

At the 2019 awards, 17 schools were announced as being part of the second year of a pilot program to support STEM curriculum in kindergarten through 12th grades that the Brown Foundation calls SupportSTEM. They will share $300,000 in grants in the 2019-20 school year, Baynham said. The 2018-19 pilot program was at Ursuline Academy. St. Scholastica is a 2019-20 recipient.

The Brown Foundation also awards annual grants for Service Learning opportunities in schools in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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