Alyssa Baugh – 2018 John B. George Award Winner
When she crosses the stage at commencement ceremonies on May 12, Alyssa Baugh will be putting an exclamation point on a rich experience as student at the University of Idaho. In that ceremony, she’ll lead the procession of graduates from the College of Science as the recipient of the John B. George Award, given each year to the student voted as the outstanding graduating senior.
Alyssa came to Idaho as a National Merit student from Rancho Cucamonga, California, and has filled a steady stream of leadership positions as a Vandal. She has been a student ambassador for the university’s Honors Program, as well as a member of the Honors Leadership Council and editor of the Honors Program student publication. She also participated as a student leader in Alternative Spring Break programs doing community service at the state correctional facility in Cottonwood, Idaho.
But leadership has been only a part of Alyssa’s experience. She’s also taken full advantage of Idaho’s emphasis on undergraduate research experiences, working for over two years in the research lab of Professor Chris Marx. “We’re very student and community oriented at Idaho”, said Alyssa. “We’re interested in student research, and students aren’t just treated as dishwashers. We get to really be involved in the projects.”
Alyssa’s project in the Marx lab evolved over time to employ some sophisticated concepts and techniques. The goal of her project was to use genetic engineering in optimizing a bacterial organism for biofuel production. “It’s a fundamental microbiology research topic”, she said, “and there’s something really appealing about doing that. I love working on puzzles – I love it when something suddenly clicks and you see the possibilities and directions you could go to apply the basic research to real world needs.”
The research experience she’s had at Idaho will provide a running start as she begins graduate work this fall at the University of Georgia. There she’s been awarded a Presidential Graduate Fellowship – one of only six given at that university each year across all disciplines. She’ll also continue the theme of her work in the Marx lab, as she plans to pursue research in applied environmental microbiology, with an emphasis towards biofuel production or waste detoxification.