Zachary Tomlinson, a rising senior at Tiffin, was recently accepted into a renowned and highly competitive National Science Foundation (NSF) research program for undergraduates – one of the highest academic achievements possible for any STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) student. Often referred to as REU, the Research Experiences for Undergraduates program is an affiliate of the NSF and hosted through numerous participating research institutions across the country. With his particular residency being sponsored by the University of Mississippi, famously nicknamed Ole Miss, Zachary will relocate to Oxford this summer and spend 10 weeks participating in a paid research internship there. According to him, this desire to discover and strong scientific curiosity is second nature, though his interest in the field began with another area of study.
“Astronomy was actually what first got me interested in science,” he explained. “As a kid, I was fascinated by our universe and its inner workings – stars, galaxies and especially black holes. As a junior in high school, I discovered and was fascinated by Einstein’s Theory of General and Special Relativity, and that was when I really fell down the rabbit hole into the world of physical science. Eventually, this led to me applying to colleges with strong relevant programs, and that’s how I found Tiffin.”
Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Forensic Science degree at TU, Zachary plans to use this experience to better prepare him for the rigors of a graduate program as well as take a deeper dive into his specific areas of interest within the field.
“I hope to gain a better understanding of how high-level and specialized research is conducted at larger universities, specifically with regard to synthetic mechanisms and reactions in the world of chemistry,” said Zachary. “While enrolled, I plan to focus on producing ruthenium-based water oxidizing catalysts. In other words, I will be trying to develop a molecule that can bond with two water molecules and transform into a single oxygen molecule. This will be excellent practice for my eventual graduate work, as after I graduate from TU, I hope to enter a Ph.D. program for either analytical or organic / inorganic synthetic chemistry. I haven’t decided which path to take yet, and this residency will give me the chance to get more familiar with both, which will hopefully make the choice easier when the time comes.”
According to Zachary, the education he received at TU has been instrumental in preparing him for this opportunity, and has only further reinforced his love of the work.
“TU is, in part, responsible for me getting the REU fellowship in the first place,” he claimed. “I can think of three reasons why. First, I was fortunate enough to have been a teaching assistant for two first-year lab-based science courses under the guidance of Dr. Sabo and Professor Boehler. This allowed me to experience being in a position of leadership in the science field for the first time, and boosted my confidence. Next, through TU’s program, I’ve been granted access to state-of-the-art instruments and pieces of equipment, luxuries that most division two universities either lack or reserve for graduate students. Finally, the quality of instruction itself has been crucial to my success, specifically what I learned in my instrumental analysis class taught by Dr. Sabo and in organic chemistry with Professor Boehler. Overall, the education I’ve received here has been very beneficial in furthering my hopes and dreams related to my future profession.”
Zachary’s Dragon Family wishes him all the best with his upcoming research fellowship, and cannot wait to see what exciting discoveries he will make in his sure-to-be long and decorated career.
For more information about the National Science Foundation and its related Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program, visit nsf.gov.