Auburn, Ala. (EETV) - Jermya Hollins (pictured above) became the first Tuskegee student to join a research project that came to fruition with Auburn University's and Tuskegee University's joint efforts.

Hollins is a Tuskegee University chemistry major who joined Auburn University Associate Professor Maria Soledad Peresin’s lab as part of a partnership to create STEM research mentorship program with Auburn graduate students and faculty. During a recent daylong collaborative event, Hollins shared her inspiration to begin studying forest biomaterials within Peresin’s lab.

Maria Soledad Peresin is an associate professor of forest biomaterials in Auburn's School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, and established the connection with Tuskegee University with Michael Curry, chemistry and mechanical engineering professor at Tuskegee.

The partnership is part of Peresin's National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development, or NSF CAREER, Award, for which she was selected earlier this year. The award supports early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education.

"This collaboration will create new opportunities for joint research projects and lab exchanges that will strengthen research outcomes for both labs," said Curry. "Specifically, I am especially excited that this research effort includes a significant boost for early-career STEM research opportunities for Tuskegee undergraduates."

Curry and his team visited Peresin and her team July 13 at the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences for a daylong collaborative meeting. As part of the event, 15 students, including Jermya Hollins, displayed posters about their research and delivered small speeches to the group.

"Because of this event, my group was able to construct new research ideas and work on new collaborations, which opened doors for new students to join," said student Morgan Fair. "I was recently on the fence of deciding if I wanted to continue my studies at the Ph.D. level, and after attending, I gained more confidence towards making a final decision."

As a follow-up to these activities, Curry and Peresin are co-organizing symposia for the American Chemical Society at its November regional meeting in Birmingham and its national meeting in spring 2022 in San Diego.

The two are also working together on a proposal for an NSF Research Experiences for Teachers site that would increase science and literacy in the state's Black Belt region regarding the sustainable use and processing of materials.