Dr. J's Scholarship

Gift supports undergraduate research for women

It’s a faculty first as far as Beth Holloway knows. Many alumni sponsor scholarships for young women pursuing engineering degrees. But for a faculty member to pony up her own money, well, that’s practically unheard of, says Holloway, director of Purdue’s Women in Engineering Program (WIEP).

The donor in question, Tatjana Jevremovic, an associate professor of nuclear engineering, established Dr. J’s Women in Engineering Undergraduate Research Award, matched by the WIEP. Nicknamed Dr. J by the many nuclear undergraduates she’s encouraged along a research path, Jevremovic wanted “to popularize a movement” that would encourage both scholarship initiatives along with inspired discovery efforts. And while this Dr. J may never win a slam dunk contest, she is helping good students raise their scholastic goals. “We often have excellent students who make straight As,” Jevremovic says. “But I want to expose them to the challenges of research.”

Any student, male or female from sophomores to seniors, can apply for the college-wide scholarship. Strong criteria, which include a published paper or one accepted for a journal, ensure that the recipient is dedicated to serious research. Students involved in EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service) and SURF (Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships), however, are not eligible for the award.

For both Holloway and Jevremovic, undergraduate research is important in many ways. Students are able to work closely with a faculty member, get a sense of belonging to the research profession, and even add to the body of knowledge in that profession. Early exposure to research also plants the seed of a graduate degree.

While Dr. J’s award had a handful of strong candidates, Heather Murdoch, a senior in materials engineering, met all the criteria to become the inaugural winner. Jevremovic plans to maintain the WIEP connection, increase the dollar value of the scholarship in the future, and hopefully inspire her own colleagues to put some money into the research futures of young students.

“I thought it was a wonderful thing and a testament to how strongly Dr. Jevremovic believes in undergraduate research,” Holloway says. “I was more than happy to match her donation with department funds so we could make this happen.”

- W. M.