Name: Erin Crater
Degree being sought: Polymer Science, B.S.
Undergrad Degree & Institution: Polymer Science, B.S., The University of Southern Mississippi
Research Group: Azoulay Research Group
Hometown: Laurel, MS

Give a brief synopsis of research/work being don.

My past research focused on synthesizing mechanically robust polymeric materials capable of triplet-triplet annihilation upconversion for increased solar cell efficiency. My present research focuses on highly sensitive, conjugated polymer-based sensors capable of selectively detecting phosphate in complex aqueous environments.

From your current perspective, what do you see as an ideal fit for your skills, goals and career moving forward?

Moving forward, I see myself obtaining a Ph.D. in Polymer Chemistry & Engineering and gaining experience in industry through internships. A career in the polymer industry would be the ideal pathway to combine my scientific background, industrial experience and professional skills.

An interesting (personal) fact about yourself.

I am currently studying abroad at the University of Exeter in England for a semester. In my free time, I enjoy playing the piano and writing poetry.

Why did you choose USM?

I chose USM because of the high reputation of the Polymer Science Department. I had taken several field trips with my AP Chemistry class in high school to tour the campus and the Polymer Department. When I entered the classrooms and laboratories to observe what current students were studying, I knew I wanted to join them.

What USM-related scholarships did you receive?

  • Presidential Scholarship through the Honors College
  • Academic Excellence Scholarship
  • Coatings Industry Education Foundation (CIEF) Scholarship

Awards won

  • 1st Place- STEM Poster at Mississippi Honors Conference
  • 1st Place- Materials and Structures Poster at Undergraduate Research Symposium at USM
  • University of Southern Mississippi’s Outstanding Freshman 2017
  • Named 2017-2018 Woods Presidential Scholar

Who or what influenced your USM education the most?

My undergraduate research experience has influenced my academic experience the most. Through it, I have gained a hands-on understanding of processes that I learn in the traditional classroom setting. In addition, my exposure to the academic research setting and graduate school process has been extremely beneficial and will become even more useful as I further my education.

Main USM extracurricular activity – why is this important to you?

My favorite extracurricular activity is participating in Women in Science and Engineering Club at USM. I enjoy volunteering at football games and participating in outreach activities to promote women in scientific fields. The ability to reach and influence children at such an early age is one that I truly cherish as a woman in science.

What are your plans for next year and beyond?

During the next few years, I plan to complete my undergraduate degree and continue my research. I plan to expand my project on conjugated polymer-based sensors by increasing their sensitivities as well as expanding their selectivity to detect other analytes.

While at USM, what other accomplishments/activities are you most proud of?

During my freshman year, the University selected me to attend Posters at the Rotunda, an event at the State Capitol building in Jackson, MS to display the research conducted by students in the state. I shared my passion for my research and science to the legislators, which allowed me to strengthen my communication skills towards an audience without a strong scientific background, a skill that is becoming more important for scientists.