June 1, 2023

The Color of Science

Isabelle Malouf uses zebrafish to do endocrine reception research.

UMW Sophomore Receives Barry Goldwater Honorable Mention

University of Mary Washington sophomore Juliana Laszakovits is the recipient of an honorable mention from the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. Juliana Laszakovits Her work focuses on understanding how dead plant life, known as dissolved organic matter, and pharmaceuticals and personal care products, known as PPCP’s, degrade. An accurate estimation of how quickly PPCP naturally degrade will provide a better estimate of the actual concentrations of pharmaceuticals entering the environment. During her research process, Laszakovits, a chemistry major, collaborated with research groups from Ohio State University and the University of Connecticut. Charles Sharpless, UMW associate professor of chemistry, will present their research findings at the Gordon Research Conference this summer. The Barry Goldwater Scholarship Program, established by Congress in 1986 to honor longtime Senator Barry Goldwater, is designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields. It aims to foster and encourage excellence in the STEM disciples and to education and train new generations of U.S. leaders. This year, the Goldwater Foundation awarded 283 scholarships from more than 1,100 STEM students across the country. In addition to the scholarships, the foundation also recognized several students from each state with the honorable mention distinction. Laszakovits, a member of the UMW Honor’s Program, has been named to the Dean’s List. In August, she will attend the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education to present findings on the effectiveness of Peer Assisted Study Sessions at UMW.

UMW Showcases STEM Activities

Small drones buzzed overhead as more than 600 people viewed the latest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in the Anderson Center at the University of Mary Washington on March 29 during the third annual  STEM Summit 16. Click to view slideshow. Showcasing the achievements of the region’s students, educators and businesses, the event featured more than 50 booths, including the UMW departments of biology, chemistry, computer science, earth and environmental science, geography, mathematics, physics and the admissions office. Germanna Community College, the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren and a variety of regional schools also showcased 3-D printers, experiments and robotics among other STEM-related technologies. Missy Cummings, director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab and associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at Duke University, delivered the keynote address. One of the U.S. Navy’s first female fighter pilots, Cummings discussed drone technologies and human-machine collaboration. The Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual event is sponsored by Central Rappahannock Regional Library (FredTech) and Lockheed Martin. A few steps away in the Goolrick pool, five local school teams – from elementary to high school – competed in the regional SeaPerch competition. The SeaPerch program, funded by the Office of Naval Research, is an innovative underwater robotics program that equips teachers and students with the resources they need to build an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). Teams guided their remote-controlled submersibles through a series of tasks, including navigating an underwater obstacle course and retrieving weights. Teams also presented to a panel of judges about the overall projects. Two teams, both from the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity Dahlgren School, won the competition and will go on to a national SeaPerch competition in Mississippi. A different buzz could be heard further down Campus Walk during the 8th Annual UMW High School Calculus Tournament. Six local high school teams, consisting of 23 students, competed in a jeopardy-style competition and used individual buzzers to signal the correct answers. The Paul VI High School team from Fairfax took home the championship title with team members Christina Wulff, Stephanie Ibanez and Stephanie Keener. The Mountain View High School team from Stafford finished second. Thomas Sheehan, also from Paul VI High School, earned the top individual score of the tournament. More than $600 in prizes were awarded to the student winners as well as the schools represented by the top two teams. The event was sponsored by Dynovis.

Lift Off

Olivia Schiermeyer led fifth graders in a countdown as she manned a miniature rocket launcher at the “3…2…1 Lift Off” station. Several covered their ears in anticipation of the blast.

Lift Off

UMW honors students inspire young scientists.

Chemistry Faculty Member Mentors U.S. Team to Strong Performance

US Chemistry Olympiad team with medals

US Chemistry Olympiad team with medals

Kelli M. Slunt, Professor of Chemistry, served as the head mentor for the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad.

The International Chemistry Olympiad is a competition for high school students.  Each participating country can send a team of up to four students to compete in theoretical and practical exams.  This year the U.S. team performed extremely well, earning 2 gold and 2 silver medals at the competition of 73 different countries in Moscow Russia.

More information can be found in articles in Chemical and Engineering News, published by the American Chemical Society:



Ben Odhiambo Kisila and Leanna Giancarlo Publish Paper

Ben Odhiambo Kisila, associate professor of Earth and Environmental Science, and Leanna Giancarlo, associate professor of Chemistry, have had their collaborative study, “Sediment trace metals and PCB input history in Lake Anna, Virginia, USA,” published in the July issue of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Earth Sciences.  This research, involving undergraduate students Gayle Armentrout, Virginia Brown and Chelsea Wegner, constitutes a four-year investigation to construct a historical record of Lake Anna, extending through Louisa, Orange, and Spotsylvania Counties in Northern Virginia, by analysis of sediment cores, from seven locations within the lake and three from nearby areas, for heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).  Chemical specific analysis of these samples enables an examination of the environmental evolution of the reservoir system since sediments sequester metals derived from both natural and anthropogenic sources and isotopic sediment chronology provides the temporal dimension.

Leanna Giancarlo

Leanna Giancarlo

Kisila, Ben05

Ben Kisila


STEM Summit Showcases Area Technology

The second annual FredTech STEM 16 Summit brought together more than 350 educators, students, community members and business leaders at the University of Mary Washington on Saturday, April 20. Click here to view the embedded video. The day-long event featured seminars on STEM programming in school districts and women in technology, as well as a STEM career panel.  The summit also included more than 45 projects from UMW, regional elementary and secondary schools, Germanna Community College, and local and regional businesses and nonprofit organizations. Six UMW offices and academic departments were represented at the summit, including the Department of Biological Sciences, the Department of Computer Science, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, the Department of Mathematics, the Office of Admissions and a 3D printing demonstration. UMW computer science student David Peworchik was honored with the “SWIFT Scholarship in Computer Science” Award for the 2013-2014 academic year, which provides a merit scholarship to a top computer science major in the region. The scholarship is funded by the Society for World Interbank Financial Telecommunications, Inc (SWIFT). In addition, UMW students, Alex Gilley, Zach Goodwin, Jerome Mueller and Russell Ruud , were named as SWIFT Student Research Fellows for the 2013-2014 year.  They received funding from SWIFT and UMW to attend the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) conference  in San Diego in July.  The students will present their part of an interdisciplinary research project in the area of pharmaceutical discovery.  Their work with supercomputers and data analysis may lead to new treatments for diseases such as HIV and Tuberculosis, according to Associate Professor Karen Anewalt, chair of the Department of Computer Science. In conjunction with the summit, UMW held a titration competition and its seventh annual calculus tournament. In the team competition of the calculus tournament, the team from Paul VI High School in Fairfax came in first place and the team from the Commonwealth Governor’s School came in second place. In the individual competition, Jack Sweeney of Paul VI High School won first place and Lina Hong of Paul VI High School won second place. In the titration tournament, members of UMW’s honors general chemistry class won first place, followed by senior chemistry majors in second place. The summit culminated with a keynote lecture by David Kerr, a program lead in the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Communications.

Chemistry Connections

Students work one-on-one with professors through UMW's undergraduate research programs.

Radio Show Features UMW Chemistry Professor

Leanna Giancarlo, chair and associate professor of chemistry at the University of Mary Washington, will discuss issues surrounding boosting student performance in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, during an interview scheduled to air on the “With Good Reason” public radio program. The program, “STEM Education in America,” will air beginning Saturday, Jan. 26. Giancarlo, one of four experts in the program, will explore the negative stereotypes of scientists in pop culture. The program also will feature Linda Rosen, the chief executive officer of Change the Education, Robert Tai, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education at the University of Virginia and Sevan Terzian, associate professor and associate director of graduate studies at the University of Florida’s College of Education. Giancarlo earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania, after receiving a bachelor’s of science in chemistry from the University of Scranton. Giancarlo is a member of the Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, the Virginia Academy of Science and the American Chemical Society. A recipient of UMW’s Alumni Association Outstanding Young Faculty Member Award, she also received a School of Arts and Sciences Dissertation Fellowship while at the University of Pennsylvania. “With Good Reason” airs weekly in Fredericksburg on Sundays from 1-2 p.m. on Radio IQ 88.3 Digital. To listen from outside of the Fredericksburg area, a complete list of air times and links to corresponding radio stations can be found at http://withgoodreasonradio.org/when-to-listen/. “With Good Reason” is the only statewide public radio program in Virginia. It hosts scholars from Virginia’s public colleges and universities who discuss the latest in research, pressing social issues and the curious and whimsical. “With Good Reason” is produced for the Virginia Higher Education Broadcasting Consortium by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and is broadcast in partnership with public radio stations in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

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News release prepared by: Sarah Tagg