Hard work pays off for honors student with EPA grant

By Linda Nguyen

Staff Writer

It’s easy to go into an advising appointment and say that you want to get a fellowship from the EPA to do your honors thesis.

It’s a totally different story to apply for and be awarded the grant, but that’s exactly what Coppell junior David Dreier did. Dreier, an environmental health science major, is also a member of the Honors Program.

Dreier was recently awarded the Greater Research Opportunities fellowship from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The fellowship will fund up to a total of $48,900 over a two-year period.

The students who receive the award also get academic support in the form of tuition aid for their junior and senior years, as well as a paid EPA summer internship the summer after their junior year. This is approximately $19,700 of academic support per year for up to two years and a $9,500 stipend for their work during their summer internship.

His award will be effective as of Monday. Dreier’s project focuses on the benefits of certain hazard assessment models to predict toxicological properties of industrial chemicals.

According to Dreier’s personal statement in his proposal, he is trying to answer questions such as, “How do we use known toxicological data to predict the impact of untested chemicals?” and “How do we use known toxicological data to protect human health?” Dreier said his project is aimed toward drawing conclusions about current methods.

“I have an allowance to spend on collecting data, but I will mostly be shifting through databases in order to draw conclusions,” Dreier said. “I might need to run tests.”

Dreier said he found out about the EPA fellowship last November through his thesis adviser Dr. Bryan Brooks, professor of environmental science and biomedical studies.

“I applied last December,” Dreier said. “I was notified in May and awarded mid-August. I start the fellowship Oct.1.”

Applicants are required to submit a personal statement, as well as background information about themselves, their research and their course work.

They are also required to submit letters of recommendation. Only students who are able to spend two years as undergraduates during the fellowship are eligible.

“I found out on my phone while I was grocery shopping with my sister,” Dreier said. “Everyone probably thought I was crazy.”

Dreier said he is thankful for the fellowship because without it, he would not have been able to develop his thesis project to the extent that he is now able with the EPA resources.

Honors Program director Dr. Andrew Wisely said he applauds Dreier for following through with his intention to get a fellowship from the EPA to combine with his honors thesis research.

“It took initiative to follow that through and he was successful,” Wisely said. Dreier said he will defend the honors thesis his senior year, along with his other honors program classmates.

“I will probably have an abstract done by next summer and defend my thesis senior year,” Dreier said. “I’m trying to stay on track with the Honors Program, but my independent readings courses are more like thesis hours.”

According to the EPA website, in the past five years, only 104 Greater Research Opportunities awards were given, and only eight of those were awarded to students in Texas. Up to 40 awards are given out every year. Brooks said participating in research is good for undergraduates.

“An opportunity like this is so important for undergraduates. Gaining such research experience prepares them perfectly to go into graduate school and facilitates development in sciences for their careers.” Dreier said he plans to go to graduate school in order to study environmental toxicology.