October 25, 2021
21-92

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Danielle McKay Wins Top Research Award at Chemistry Symposium

Danielle McKay’s “Recycling of Iron Oxide for Photoelectrochemical Cells” earned the Best Poster Award (first place) at the 2021 Herty Medalist Undergraduate Research Symposium organized by the Atlanta section of the American Chemical Society. She anticipates completing the American Chemical Society-certified Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at VSU in December and plans to pursue a career as a cosmetic formulation chemist.

VALDOSTA — Danielle McKay’s “Recycling of Iron Oxide for Photoelectrochemical Cells” earned the Best Poster Award (first place) at the 2021 Herty Medalist Undergraduate Research Symposium organized by the Atlanta section of the American Chemical Society.

“My research is focused on evaluating the performance of recycled iron (III) oxides, found in rust, as the semiconducting material for use in photoelectrochemical cells, or in other words, solar cells,” she explained. “Solar cells are very useful as an environmentally friendly method of producing energy, as opposed to the burning of fossil fuels, which contributes to large amounts of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.” 

McKay began this research a year ago under the mentorship of Dr. Linda de la Garza, associate professor of chemistry. During the summer she received funding to complete her research as part of VSU’s 2021 Blazer Summer Research Institute, a competitive program for faculty and undergraduate students funded by Academic Affairs, University Advancement, and private donations.

“Winning first place in the poster presentation was an absolute honor,” shared the Stonecrest, Georgia, resident. “I was extremely excited to learn that my hard work was recognized. I am very passionate about this topic. I believe I demonstrated my passion during my presentation, and I hope to further spread awareness of the importance of this research. I truly appreciate the knowledge and value the experiences I’ve gained through this opportunity.”

McKay’s first place win included a one-year membership to the American Chemical Society and travel money to attend the organization’s national meeting in San Diego, California in March 2022.

As a student at VSU, McKay is president of SMACS (Student Members of the American Chemical Society). She joined the student organization in 2019 and previously served as treasurer. She is a member of the National Council of Negro Women, where she has served as historian and community service chairperson. She helps manage the Department of Chemistry stockroom and also has experience as a lead student peer mentor with the College of Science and Mathematics GUIDES (Giving Undergraduates Ideas to Directly Encourage Success) Peer Mentoring Program.

“During my time in SMACS, I volunteered to perform experiments at multiple Science Saturday events, the South Georgia Regional Library System, and virtually with a Girl Scouts chapter from Albany,” she shared.

McKay has also volunteered at the Valdosta-Lowndes County Family YMCA and Jacobs’ Ladder Therapeutic Riding Center.

McKay’s commitment to academic, leadership, research, and service excellence has helped her earn the Julie Wisenbaker Sumerford Endowed Scholarship and the Southwest Georgia Section of the American Chemical Society Optima Chemical Award. In December 2020 she earned the American Chemical Society’s Student Leadership Award and was invited to participate in the organization’s nine-month Leadership Institute Experience.

McKay plans to present her award-winning research at the Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society Inc. in Birmingham, Alabama, in November.

“I have a very big, close-knit family, and my success is due to their unwavering support and encouragement,” she said. This includes mother Cammy McKay, father Marcus McKay Sr., brother Marcus McKay Jr., and grandmother Diane Dean.

“I would also like to thank the chemistry faculty for believing in me and presenting me with these opportunities during my time at VSU,” she added.

McKay anticipates completing the American Chemical Society-certified Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at VSU in December. She plans to pursue a career as a cosmetic formulation chemist.

“I hope to use my passions and knowledge to ultimately start my own cosmetic company, where I will formulate products for other entrepreneurs,” she said.

On the Web:

https://www.valdosta.edu/chemistry/
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