Chemistry Student Awarded Research Internship in Paris

Katie Hamann

Katie Hamann

Las Vegas, N.M. — New Mexico Highlands University chemistry junior Katie Hamann will be conducting cutting-edge laser research at top universities in Paris this summer through a National Science Foundation internship program.

Hamann is one of only 12 undergraduate chemistry students in the country selected for the Optics in the City of Lights Program, a partnership with the University of Michigan.  

She will spend two months working in different laboratories in Paris, conducting chemistry research using state-of-the art ultrafast lasers. Some of the premier research universities participating in the program include Université Paris-Sud, í‰cole Polytechnique, and Institut d’Optique.

The 20-year-old Hamann has earned a 4.0 GPA and also minors in mathematics.

“It’s hard to believe that I’m getting this chance to live in Paris and do research in chemistry, which I love,” Hamann said. “Every time I think about it I feel so thrilled, along with a few butterflies in my stomach. I’m excited to learn more about physical chemistry — the math behind the chemistry — at this internship.”

Hamann grew up in the tiny ranching community of Haines, Ore. in the shadow of the Elkhorn Mountains. She came to Highlands on a rodeo scholarship, and competes at barrel racing, breakaway roping, and goat tying for the Cowgirls.

Hamann was planning on another major, but that changed when she took an introductory chemistry class with chemistry professor David Sammeth and became hooked on the discipline.

“We see the world around us but there’s a whole molecular level that we don’t fully understand,” Hamman said. “I love the way chemistry can answer scientific questions about the world we live in in a concrete way — like analyzing the oxygen electrons in a molecule of water.

“Dr. Sammeth is a really good, tough professor who motivated me to major in chemistry and expand my career options. The chemistry professors at Highlands are awesome and go the extra mile to help you succeed,” Hamann said.

Sammeth, who chairs the Department of Biology and Chemistry, is also Hamann’s adviser. He helped her with the internship application.

“Katie is a gifted student who works hard, and has tremendous potential and curiosity,” Sammeth said. “She has the ability to not just learn, but to dream beyond what’s known and consider new questions and paradigms. Katie is willing to stretch herself by looking at every opportunity.”

Hamann was named the Outstanding General Chemistry Student of the Year at Highlands in the 2013 — 2014 academic year and is vice president of the Chemistry Club.

In her quest to learn as much as she can, Hamann volunteers in chemistry professor Brooks Maki’s organic chemistry laboratory.

“At a small school like Highlands, you have great opportunities as an undergraduate to work in chemistry labs with research instruments,” Hamann said.

She was awarded a scholarship for academic excellence through the university’s Achieving in Research Mathematics and Science (ARMAS) program.

Hamann also worked as a supplemental instruction leader for ARMAS, leading group study sessions and coaching students to master the material and build effective study habits. She was awarded a scholarship for academic excellence through the ARMAS program. The scholarship is funded through the National Science Foundation S-Stem program.

“ARMAS is like an immersion experience where you get to meet so many other science people. I really enjoyed helping other students understand the biology material and succeed,” Hamann said.

Hamann says that these days she has a passion for both chemistry and rodeo, with the two providing a nice balance in her life.

“I like rodeo because it’s an independent sport where you’re responsible for your own success, and your horses,” said Hamann, who has ridden as long as she can remember. “Being on the rodeo team means a lot to me. My coach, Jordan Taton, is incredible. She’s very supportive of me not only in rodeo, but also in my academics.”