Earl R.

Graduate Recipient

"A year from now, what advice might you give to your past self that could help you overcome any obstacles you are currently facing? Explain how this advice could help you live your life with CF to the fullest potential right now. As part of your essay please also explain the significance of your creative presentation to your journey with CF."

Living with cystic fibrosis has taught me resilience, patience, and the determination to succeed in my career as a chemist. Even though I am frequently sick, I use every resource I have to work towards my goals. For example, I read scientific literature while doing my breathing treatments. Time spent in the hospital is a reminder of why I study chemistry, as well as a chance to practice having patience and a positive outlook.

A year from now, I hope to publish my first journal article as a primary author and be making progress on my doctoral thesis. Having just completed all the preliminary requirements for my program, I would advise myself to remember the lessons I have learned from living with CF: to channel my determination into a work ethic that moves me forward, to be patient while working on my thesis, and to have the resilience to stay positive even through a pulmonary exacerbation or failed experiment.

For my creative submission, I used optical components, liquid nitrogen, and a laser from my research lab to create an image of a rose. The laser used to make the rose, much like CF, is initially invisible to the naked eye. As liquid nitrogen creates a cloud of vapor around the mirrors, the laser beam—and the rose—become visible. As I had no experience with optics before last year, this submission symbolizes how I incorporate knowledge into other parts of my life—similarly to my experience with CF.


Earl R.'s Artwork

Earl R.'s Achievements

  • PhD Candidate/Teaching Assistant at University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill. Research: Application of ultra-high-resolution optical microscopy to study semiconducting materials. (2014-present)
  • Founding member of Chemical Education Outreach program at UNC-Chapel Hill. (2015-present)
  • Disc Jockey at WXYC-Chapel Hill 89.3 FM. (2015-present)
  • Undergraduate Research Assistant at Clemson University. Research: Synthesis and testing the applications of polydiacetylene polymer blend films as sensors. (2011-2013)
  • Outstanding Senior in Chemistry Award through the Western Carolina’s Section of the American Chemical Society. (2013)
  • Merck Index Award at Clemson University. (2012)
  • NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates Fellowship at Virginia Tech. Research: Synthesizing and exploring the uses of cellulose esters as drug delivery platforms. (2012)
  • Excellence in Research Award at Virginia Tech. (2012)
  • Indie/Pop Genre Director and Disc Jockey at WSBF-FM Clemson. (2011-2014)