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Chemistry student wins NSF graduate fellowship

Stephanie Lim won a three-year National Science Foundation fellowship to support her doctoral studies in chemistry. It’s the first time a Binghamton student has received the prestigious award. About 1,000 students are chosen yearly for the program, which comes with a $30,000 annual stipend.

Lim and her family moved to the United States from Malaysia when she was 16. Her mother took a job in hairstyling and her father worked as a waiter to support their daughters’ education.

“It was their moral support and constant encouragement that led me to this point,” said Lim, a second-year graduate student who speaks five languages.

She developed an interest in chemistry during high school in Queens and went looking for a way to get hands-on research experience as a sophomore at Binghamton, which is how she met Professor CJ Zhong. His diligent, optimistic and multidisciplinary approach to many fundamental scientific issues attracted Lim’s interest.

“Steph always shows a strong desire to learn,” Zhong said. “This element is very important because it motivates her to have a clear focus, develop effective methods, explore every opportunity, ask questions and work toward achieving the best results, even when there is a temporary setback or there is no prior example.”

Lim graduated summa cum laude from Binghamton in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. Her undergraduate research led to an honors thesis, part of which was published in top journals.

And, although she considered going to medical school or pharmacy school, she decided to stay at Binghamton because of the excitement she felt in exploring the nanoscale world in Zhong’s lab.

Lim’s work focuses on developing new approaches to the assembly of nanoparticles with controllable size, shape and interparticle spatial properties. The work may one day have applications for highly sensitive and specific biological and chemical sensing.

These days, Lim is the one leading under-graduates in experiments. She also takes the results of her work to Zhong when she’s stumped by what she has found.

“I love working here,” said Lim, now 24. “Nanotechnology is one of the most intensely studied fields today. It’s an exciting frontier for me to pursue as a graduate student.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08