Chemistry alumna receives National Science Foundation graduate fellowship

| Denise Olson

So far, the second year of grad school is stacking up to be pretty impressive for Blugold chemistry alumna Clorice Reinhardt. Not at all surprising, given the standout undergraduate accomplishments and experiences she brought to the table at Yale.

Reinhardt has become one of three Yale molecular biophysics and biochemistry Ph.D. candidates to earn a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship for her research into biological charge transfer reactions, a process that drives the most crucial biological functions such as photosynthesis, cellular respiration and DNA synthesis. 

"I am trying to understand how the chemical environment and structure of these amino acids affect how fast these reactions happen," Reinhardt explained. "If we understood this process better, we could manipulate proteins that use this type of chemistry to either more efficiently catalyze chemical reactions or perform new ones."

As a McNair Scholar and University Honors program participant, Reinhardt conducted collaborative student-faculty research projects, undergraduate research which resulted in three peer-reviewed publications.

Reinhardt co-authored a study with chemistry faculty members Dr. Sudeep Bhattacharyay and Dr. Sanchita Hati, along with fellow students Caitlin Bresnahan and Quin Hu, which has been published in a prestigious journal from the American Chemistry Society, ACS Catalysis. Her research mentor, Dr. Bhattacharyay, describes that project.

"During her three-plus years of research in my lab, Clorice used theoretical/computational chemistry to model the catalysis of quinone oxidoreductase, an important enzyme that plays a key role in reducing the oxidative stress," he said.

According to Reinhardt, it was this undergraduate research and other high-impact practices that gave her the edge she needed to not only be accepted at Yale, but to succeed at a very high level, evidenced by the NSF fellowship.

"I think the biggest advantage I gained at UW-Eau Claire was the ability to write and communicate my research, think independently, and finally see the big picture of why it was important," she said. "Fellowships are based on academic rigor and personal merit, but they are made and broken in being able to clearly explain your research and why it's important in tight page limits."

Reinhardt attributes her ability to be concise and compelling in presenting her findings to experiences like regular group presentations, teaching apprenticeship in classrooms embedded with research, presentation at UW-Eau Claire's student research celebration (CERCA) and other conferences, attending seminars and finally completing a thesis for her Honors Program capstone, a project she hadn't always looked forward to but knows was hugely beneficial. Read related story.

"I don't think I would have been enthused about writing an undergraduate thesis if Jeff Vahlbusch (former University Honors Program director) hadn't been so passionate in describing the process and its benefits."

You can see the official announcement about the fellowships in this news release from Yale University