UW-Whitewater science student earns $305,000 graduate scholarship

    May 19, 2014

    When Michelle Storage crossed the stage at UW-Whitewater's commencement ceremony on May 17, she closed the book on a transformative undergraduate experience.

    "I'm so glad I made the decision to come here," said Storage, from Stoughton. "I feel like I had more opportunities here to work one-on-one with faculty members like Dr. Chan and Dr. Kumpaty."

    Her professors -- Hephzibah Kumpaty and Catherine Chan- - say they are extremely proud of Storage, and excited to see her embark on another challenging journey.

    Storage, who double majored in biology and chemistry, won a prestigious graduate research scholarship at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. This fall, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. program in interdisciplinary biomedical sciences and her scholarship package will be about $61,000 per year for the next five years.

    "What's most impressive is that this is a research scholarship, and not a teaching one," Kumpaty said.

    "It's getting more and more competitive. Graduate programs are investing enormous sums of money and time in a person," Chan said. "It is hard for a student to get accepted without significant research experience."

    Fortunately for Storage, UW-Whitewater offered myriad opportunities for scientific discovery and exploration in state-of-the-art laboratories and classrooms in Upham Hall.

    "As students, we were really allowed the freedom to try new experiments, and not just replicate what other scientists had done before," Storage said.

    Research opportunities are not limited to campus, Wisconsin, or even the United States, for that matter.

    Storage was one of 12 UW-Whitewater students to travel to India for a six-week summer research experience funded by the National Science Foundation.

    They conducted collaborative research with international teams at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, a prestigious public institution in Hyderabad, India.

    Storage's project involved isolating compounds from a kind of black pepper plant native to India. Using the compounds, Storage worked to develop an environmentally friendly pesticide.

    "We tested it on insects that damage grain and wheat crops, and observed a 40 percent mortality rate," Storage said.

    Her results suggested real potential for the "green" pesticide, and consequently, Storage received an undergraduate research fellowship as well as an undergraduate research grant to continue her project.

    Kumpaty said Storage has the drive to succeed as a scientist.

    "It excites me. I see her passion, dedication and interest," she said. "It's not easy. Most of the time, experiments fail and it's easy to get discouraged. Not Michelle. She's always ready to try again."

    As she prepares to earn a Ph.D., Storage said her career aspirations have changed since she walked into UW-Whitewater as an undergraduate.

    "I was dead set on becoming a pharmacist," Storage said. "Now, I want to work for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I want to develop vaccinations and discover treatments for deadly diseases."

    -- Written by Jeff Angileri

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