Jessica Lee Woods
Jessica Lee Woods has become the first University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student to be awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. A University Honors Program student, Woods is majoring in chemistry and geology. Career goals for this native of Maryville, Tennessee, include conducting research in environmental geochemistry and applying her findings to local and global environmental problems. She is especially interested in the introduction and transport of contaminants and climate change.
“With the excellent chemistry, biology, and geology departments at UTC and professors in those departments dedicated to advising students and providing them with research opportunities, I am very surprised to be the first,” Woods said. “I am very glad that the outstanding work in the natural sciences being conducted at UTC has finally been recognized on such a national scale. I hope that my being awarded the Goldwater Scholarship is just the beginning for the academic and research accomplishments of UTC natural science students to be recognized in this manner.”
The 2008 Goldwater Scholars were selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,035 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. Woods’ award will cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. Woods will receive the award for academic year 2008-09.
“I have received the support, guidance, and encouragement from my professors that typically only graduate students are able to receive at larger, more research-oriented universities,” Woods said.
Dr. H. Douglas Kutz, Ben Gross Professor, serves as the UTC Representative for the Goldwater Scholarship program.
“I am extremely delighted that Jessica has been selected to receive one of these nationally competitive scholarships,” said Kutz. “Her inclusion as one of only 321 students selected to receive awards this year is evidence of her most impressive academic qualifications. That a student from UTC was selected by the Goldwater Scholarship Foundation also validates the exceptional quality of instruction that we make available to our students.”
UTC’s commitment to teaching, mentoring, and advising undergraduate students, as Woods has experienced through the geology and chemistry departments and the UTC University Honors Program (UHON), is one of the primary reasons she believes she was awarded this scholarship and honor.
“The UTC Honors curriculum continually challenges me to critically analyze not only the topics I am assigned in class but what I read in newspapers, see on TV, and experience in everyday life. The critical thinking skills I have acquired largely through UHON have given me a great advantage in my studies of chemistry and geology, prompting me to question and research until I achieve understanding and to draw connections between seemingly unrelated ideas or occurrences,” Woods said.
Dr. Tracy S. Jones, Assistant Professor of Geology, Dr. Gretchen Potts, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Woods participated in a joint research project in fall of 2007, collecting water samples from the Little Sequatchie River to determine the impact of frequent, recreational all-terrain vehicle use directly adjacent to and through the river.
Woods analyzed the samples to determine presence and concentrations of 23 different metal species, including lead, aluminum, zinc, and iron.
During her sophomore year, Woods also had the opportunity to work with Dr. Ann E. Holmes, Assistant Professor of Geology to develop fossil identification cards to use as teaching aids. She worked with Dr. Jonathan Mies, R. L. Wilson Associate Professor of Geology, conducting x-ray diffraction analyses. Woods is currently involved in another research project.
“Dr. Potts and I are now beginning a new project to determine the pollutants that are leached out of cigarette butts into the environment,” said Woods. “This research will become my departmental honors project.”
Globally, several trillions of cigarette butts and filters are improperly disposed of annually, each a possible source of pollution.
“We have not been able to find research where someone studied which chemicals, if any, leach from cigarette litter when it is disposed of in the environment and under what conditions the chemicals leach into the water and soil,” Potts said.
Woods truly appreciates the importance of her education and sees a future where she will apply all the skills and knowledge that she gains at the University, according to Potts.
“These traits and characteristics are critical for students who will succeed in a career in the sciences. She is also one of the most polite students that I have ever met. She never complains, no matter how much work I give her to do. Best of all, she always has a smile on her face and she approaches her work with enthusiasm,” Potts said.
Goldwater Scholars have very impressive academic qualifications that have garnered the attention of prestigious post-graduate fellowship programs. Recent Goldwater Scholars have been awarded 70 Rhodes Scholarships, 94 Marshall Awards (8 of the 40 awarded in the United States in 2008), and numerous other distinguished fellowships.
The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry M. Goldwater was 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.