Julissa Freund ’20 is passionate about helping others.
She discovered her calling to conduct research that makes a difference following her sophomore year at UNH.
“I find research so fascinating in how someone can discover a topic by deeply analyzing it,” says Freund, “The research not only benefits the researcher’s knowledge base, but the results can also help so many people.”
This summer, the environmental engineering major will take her passion to the Gulf Coast to research the impact of oil spills as a member of the Ocean and Coastal Research Experiences for Undergraduates program (OCEANUS) at the University of Texas A&M.
Freund, who was one of 13 applicants chosen from a pool of 200, will work with professor Antonietta Quigg for the project titled “Environmental Impacts: Oil Spills and the Gulf of Mexico.” The position comes with a $5,560 summer stipend, travel expenses, housing and a meal plan.
The Staten Island, New York, resident credits the mentoring she has received for her success at UNH. A first-generation college student, Freund arrived at UNH without knowing any other students but became quickly acclimated through UNH’s Connect STEM, which supports first-generation and multicultural students as they make the transition from high school to college.
“Connect STEM really helped UNH feel like a home away from home and pushed me to take on new things such as the McNair Scholars Program,” says Freund, who is now a mentor for other students in the program.
As a McNair scholar, she has worked with professor Jim Malley on research pertaining to the societal, economic and environmental aspects of providing clean and safe drinking water to small communities and is a member of the MalleyCats research group.
Malley says she is very deserving of the research opportunity with OCEANUS. “She is bright, enthusiastic, working hard and is growing in her confidence and understanding of the research we perform,” he says. “She is inspiring other first-generation, underrepresented, women and minorities to pursue careers in STEM and perform research.”
The work with Malley led Freund to seek research experiences where she could gain new experiences and connections. Through OCEANUS, Freund will work along other students, attend field trips and participate in weekly workshops on topics such as scientific research and communication, leadership and professional development.
“I wanted to work in a different field than I had before, and the oil spill research looks very interesting,” she says. “I am still learning about my field in determining what graduate program and career path I want to pursue.”