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Alexis Glaudin, ’21 Wins NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

May 3, 2021

Alexis Glaudin (UNC ’21, CSS 5) will soon be leaving UNC with a B.S. in chemistry — and a collection of prestigious awards and fellowships. The senior from York, PA has been awarded some of Carolina’s top prizes in the Department of Chemistry, as well as a highly-selective graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation.

Glaudin was recently selected for the prestigious NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program, which recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. The award includes a three-year annual stipend, allowance for tuition and fees, opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct her own research. Many GRFP Fellows go on to become leaders in their fields, making significant contributions to research, innovation, and teaching. Glaudin is the seventh CSS scholar to receive this honor.

Through the UNC Department of Chemistry, Glaudin recently received the 2021 ACS Undergraduate Award in Physical Chemistry, recognizing her accomplishments in physical chemistry coursework and research. Last fall, she received the Jason D. Altom Memorial Award for Undergraduate Research, recognizing her extraordinary research potential.

Glaudin has accumulated a variety of research experiences during her four years at UNC, from pharmacology to organic chemistry to physical chemistry. Her first research positions aligned with her original career goal: to study medicinal chemistry and work in the pharmaceutical industry. In her freshman year, she worked in the Roth Lab within the UNC Department of Pharmacology, where she contributed to research that could help accelerate the drug design process by improving the way that scientists design and test the efficacy of new drugs: research that was subsequently published in the Nature Chemical Biology Journal.

Next, she joined the Aubé Group, where she spent two years tackling the opioid epidemic by designing opiate-like compounds that relieve pain without the addictive side effects. This research formed the basis for Glaudin’s senior honors thesis, for which she was awarded highest honors. “I really enjoyed this work, because I know that I’m helping to find a solution to an urgent, relevant problem in the United States,” Glaudin said.

After taking a quantum chemistry class, her career goals shifted. “Much about quantum phenomena is still yet to be understood, and that element of unknown excites me; I want to be a part of something cutting-edge,” Glaudin said. “I am interested in pursuing physical chemistry in graduate school and using quantum chemistry as a tool to discover something new.”

To help prepare for this new path, Glaudin began working in the Papanikolas Group last spring, where she studies materials with applications to electronics that will optimize current technology and move the world closer to new technological feats, such as solving classically impossible problems with quantum computing. “This research gives me the opportunity to discover electronic behavior in materials that have applications in next-generation technology. The novelty of it genuinely fascinates me,” she shared.

After graduating from UNC, Glaudin will continue her study of physical chemistry in Seattle at the University of Washington with her NSF GRFP award. “I’m looking forward to diving deeper into the quantum chemistry world at UW and learning as many skills as I can in order to lead a truly impactful research career,” Glaudin said. “It will also be so much fun doing science in the birthplace of all my favorite rock bands, like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains.”

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