Junior chemistry major is one of nine Maryland undergraduates selected
Towson University Honors College student Marella Schammel has again garnered national attention for her academic excellence.
She is one of 496 Barry Goldwater Scholarship award winners, chosen from a pool of over 5,000 undergraduates from 443 institutions from across the country. The prestigious recognition includes an award of $7,500.
“We are so happy for Marella!” says David Vanko, dean of the Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics. “She has already won research grant funding, was the first-place awardee in a regional undergraduate research symposium and is a published author. Clearly, she’s well-positioned to succeed in future scientific research.”
The chemistry major is part of associate professor John Sivey’s research group—supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant—where she studies water disinfectants and their byproducts.
She came to TU as a declared chemistry major with an interest in analytical chemistry. A conversation with Sivey about his research in that field piqued her interest, and she applied to his research group. Schammel began working in aquatic chemistry and quickly found a research passion.
“When we disinfect drinking water, we add bleach, which can then react with organic matter already present in the water—like leaves— to form potentially toxic disinfection by-products (DBPs),” she says. “Previous studies that our lab and other groups have done examined the formation of these DBPs in 'clean' systems (controlled pH, salinity, etc.). My research, however, looks at their formation in the natural waters that undergo disinfection.”
Schammel’s work can help improve the disinfection process to minimize DBP formation.
She was recently named as Sivey’s first lab manager, and she credits the professor and her lab mates for helping her advance academically.
“I have an amazing support system in my lab mates and Dr. Sivey and a group of the chemistry faculty who I can bounce ideas off of,” she says. “The experience I’ve gotten in Dr. Sivey’s lab—not just research but also preparation for the professional side, including grant proposals, abstracts, presentations—has been really valuable.”
Sivey sees a bright future ahead for Schammel.
“Marella is on track for a highly productive research career,” he says. “Her enthusiasm originates from a sincere interest in scientific inquiry. She exemplifies Towson University’s commitment to excellence in research involving undergraduates.”
Schammel has been a part of Sivey’s research group since she was a rising sophomore. She played a part in compound testing, specifically with the herbicide diamethenamid, a compound with which she has prior experience.
Her research led to her being the only North American recipient of the 2018-19 SUEZ/Vernon Lucy III Scholarship from the America Waterworks Association (AWWA). She is also the first student from TU to receive this $5,000 scholarship.
“I tell the people I tutor, ‘Research is amazing! I love it!’” Schammel says. “Don’t be afraid to approach professors. They genuinely really want to help you. They are vested in making sure you have every resource to succeed.
“Because Towson is purely undergraduate in chemistry, the professors’ focus is on you. Undergraduates interact with lab equipment to do research; I’ve even taken one apart and cleaned it with a Q-tip. That is a unique opportunity that is amazing.”
Two other TU students have won Goldwater scholarships: Jimmy Ninh in 1999 and Michelle Weber in 2002.
The Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation was established by Congress in 1986 to serve as a living memorial to honor the lifetime work of Sen. Barry Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years in the U.S. Senate.
This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland.