Tara Urner ’16 earns fellowship from National Science Foundation to pay for graduate school, support research
May 07, 2019
Tara Urner ’16 has been selected to participate in the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program. The prestigious fellowship, awarded annually to just 2,000 graduate students across the nation, supports outstanding scholarship in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The fellowship pays a stipend and covers all aspects of Urner’s Ph.D. studies at the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, a dual program at Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University.
“The education and research opportunities I had access to at Earlham contributed to my success in earning this fellowship,” Urner says. “At Earlham, I was able to double major in Physics and Philosophy and earn a minor in Computer Science while participating in mentored research within several departments. I also was able to conduct field science research, not once but twice. That kind of interdisciplinary education and training is not available at every institution.”
Urner’s fellowship also will support her role in ongoing research that is developing light sheet microscopy systems, which are emerging as novel tools for imaging biological systems.
“My current research project involves designing and building these systems,” she says. “Light sheet microscopy is a relatively recent innovation in fluorescence microscopy that is especially well suited for gentle volumetric imaging of live samples for long periods of time.”
At Earlham, Urner says she benefitted from one-on-one interactions with faculty in not only her core areas of study, but also in Chemistry. She also traveled to Nicaragua and Iceland with Professor of Computer Science Charlie Peck as part of the College’s Interdisciplinary Field Studies program. In Nicaragua, Urner was responsible for designing biological sampling protocols for research on a fungus known to disrupt coffee production worldwide.
In Iceland, she used a near infrared spectrophotometer device to measure organic content in soil at Skálanes Nature Reserve in order to assist with sustainable farming efforts and at the Sólheimajökull glacier to study the effects of climate change.
Urner also participated in Earlham’s Quaker Fellows Program, a leadership development program which provides opportunities to grow spiritually while contributing to the vitality of the College’s Quaker traditions.
“These experiences equipped me with a unique background and skillset that I have built on in my academic career,” Urner says. “I am grateful to all of my mentors at Earlham for helping me improve my skills and believing in me.”
The NSF also recognized Abby Primack ’14, who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at University of California, Davis. She received Honorable Mention as part of the 2019 fellowship program.
Urner and Primack are the latest graduates to contribute to Earlham’s reputation as a national leader for producing outstanding scholarship in the sciences. In fact, the College ranks in the nation’s top two percent for the percentage of graduates who earn advance degrees, including the Ph.D.
Strong outcomes are made possible through the EPIC initiative. This four-year journey through the liberal arts combines the academic major with transformative learning experiences, including research, study away, internships and leadership development to prepare students exceptionally well for life beyond Earlham.
Earlham also offers The EPIC Advantage — a funded internship, project or research experience of up to $5,000 per student — a level of support that few other institutions in the country can match.
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Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. We rank 7th nationally by Princeton Review for Best Classroom Experience and 22nd by U.S. News and World Report for commitment to undergraduate teaching.
Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and firstname.lastname@example.org.