Student wins EPA’s GRO fellowship

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Jewel Lipps. (Courtesy of Jewel Lipps)

SMU student Jewel Lipps was awarded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greater Research Opportunity Fellowship. The GRO fellowship program gave $1.65 million in research fellowships to 33 students across the country that are pursuing degrees in environmental science and other related fields.

Lipps, an environmental science with biology emphasis and chemistry major, found out about the grant after attending the University Honors Program End of the Year Banquet.

“I attended the University Honors Program End of the Year Banquet, where the director of the SMU National Fellowships Office, Dr. [Kathleen] Hugley-Cook, shared information about her office and encouraged us all to look at the website,” Lipps said. “It had many scholarships listed and I found the link to the EPA Greater Research Opportunity information there. Dr. Hugley-Cook then met with me to help me apply.”

This year’s GRO recipients are qualified to receive a fellowship of up to $50,000. With her money, Lipps hopes to work on a project related to remediation, water quality or ecosystem protection.

“The EPA’s GRO for Undergraduates is a fellowship that covers tuition and housing costs for a student’s junior and senior years, a paid summer internship with the EPA, and $5000 for academic and research expenses. I am currently in the process of being matched for my summer internship,” Lipps said.

“I plan to use my academic /research expense funds for travel costs in my SMU research project with the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man (ISEM). For this project, I will be working at the Trinity River Audubon Center (TRAC) to survey the forest composition and look at how the restoration process is going. TRAC has been reclaimed from an illegal landfill, so I find the site’s restoration to be an intriguing story.”

According to Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Research and Development, the EPA’s GRO program has been providing fellowships to students for the past 30 years.

“For 30 years, EPA’s GRO program has nurtured and supported new generations of America’s workforce as they prepare to enter the environmental science and public health fields,” Kadeli said. “This year’s GRO recipients truly reflect EPA’s commitment to research that promotes a sustainable and healthy nation.”

When she first found out Lipps said she was shocked and in disbelief. However, now that it is official, she is honored and grateful to be a GRO fellow.

“I am passionate about the environment because it is an issue where individuals have an impact. What each person does locally can affect someone on the other side of the globe, but it is also a matter of collective actions. I also see environmental issues as the root of many problems related to human health, hunger and equality. Passion toward the environment not only has the benefit of restoring and sharing nature’s wonder but helping humanity in general,” said Lipps.

In the future, Lipps hopes to attend graduate school to further research in ecosystem restoration and remediation methods.

“In general I hope to make the world, or at least a piece of it, cleaner and healthier. More specifically, I hope to help restore ecosystems around very polluted areas,” Lipps said.

“Research is showing that natural solutions, like wetlands and forests along rivers, are better ways to have clean water than industrial, engineering type of solutions, and I want to be part of this restoration movement.”

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