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  Lenorra Grant

HSTA Alumna and NSF Fellow Lynnora Grant Credits HSTA, High School, and Family for College Success

 HSTA alumna Lynnora Grant is rolling up her sleeves, donning her cowboy hat, and galloping off to Texas to join the Ph.D. Rodeo at Rice University in Houston. Lynnora received her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from West Virginia University in May. In August, she heads to the Lone Star State as one of four WVU awardees of the National Science Foundations' Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Lynnora credits HSTA, her science experiences at Jefferson High School in HSTA's Eastern Panhandle region, and her family with guiding her on the journey that led to her research interests and successes. “It was a combination of HSTA and science fairs going through high school. My HSTA teacher and mentor, Denise Gibson, would allow me to do the same project for both as long as it was related to health.”

 Her parents hold engineering degrees and her older sister was in HSTA, so she decided to apply for the program as well. “I was just really interested in science experiments. Then HSTA exposed me to the scientific method and a lot of concepts in the medical field. One year I measured the effect of cooking on vitamin C levels in vegetables. Another year I exposed UV-sensitive plastic beads to the sun using different methods of protection. I also participated in a WVU study about diabetes at Biomed Summer Camp.”

 Lynnora says her HSTA projects taught her to conduct background research, read and understand scientific information, and communicate her ideas. She also gained experience and confidence in presenting her findings. “I referenced my HSTA experience in my proposal for this fellowship. My background knowledge allowed me to more effectively present my findings to the judges at HSTA symposiums. Once I got to college, I had knowledge of what to do when it came to conducting and presenting authentic studies.”

 “College” was West Virginia University, a new Grant family tradition. Lynnora is the middle sibling of three. Her older sister graduated from the university with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in Spanish. Her younger sister is in school now, majoring in psychology and also minoring in Spanish. All three are HSTA alumnae.

Sophomore year, Lynnora came under the tutelage of Dr. Kostas Sierros at WVU's Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. She stayed with him through the rest of her tenure at WVU. After seeing a posting about summer research opportunities in Greece, she went to his office. “He talked with me about nanoparticles. I remembered my HSTA teacher saying they were the future, so it caught my ear.”

 That summer trip abroad exposed her to thin-film technologies built from nanoparticles for gas sensing devices and other applications. Back at WVU she got involved in projects that included 2D and 3D printing of organic and inorganic materials. Those experiences and her continued work with Dr. Sierros led her to investigate functional applications for inorganic materials. “I’ve been blessed with invaluable mentors in high school as well as college. I hope that as I work toward my Ph.D. and beyond I have the opportunity to serve as a mentor for students like me.”

 Her work at Rice University will center on designing and building metallic nanoscale-based structures. Although her project is not solidified yet, she is interested in making medical devices and equipment. “There's lots of room for complex designs using additive manufacturing processes at the molecular level,” she says. Lynnora could be building your next custom knee replacement from the particles up.

 Going to Texas is a sort of homecoming for Lynnora. “I'm excited about the new environment. It's a smaller school. I'll get to meet new people. And the research will be cool. For a little while I was nervous about leaving West Virginia, but life is too short to be afraid. And Houston is someplace I've wanted to visit for a long time. My grandmother and her brothers and sisters are from Port Arthur, and I have a great-aunt in Houston. It's kind of like returning home. Plus, this will give my family the excuse to visit everyone!”

 So, at the end of summer, Lynnora will head southwest to work hard, and play a little bit too. She will have Mountaineer gear with her, and a cowboy hat. “During rodeo, everyone wears one,” she says.