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McNair Scholar Ellis to Present at Undergraduate Research Event on Capitol Hill

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 14:17pm | By: David Tisdale

Clara EllisClara Ellis, a Ronald McNair Scholar at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), has been selected to participate in the annual Posters on the Hill, set for April 20-21 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. This annual undergraduate research poster session, hosted by the Council on Undergraduate Research, is an opportunity for members of Congress and their staff members to learn about the importance of undergraduate research through direct interaction with student researchers.

A recipient of a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship during the spring 2019 semester, Ellis is a senior ACS-certified chemistry major from Hattiesburg. Mentored by USM associate professor of chemistry Dr. Matthew Donahue, her research emphasis includes producing an efficient organic synthetic pathway to produce polycyclic piperidine derivatives. After graduating from USM, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in organic synthesis and a career in industrial chemistry.

Her research poster presentation on Capitol Hill will be titled “Controlling Prescription Drug Costs Through Increased Chemical Reaction Efficiencies.”

“I hope to demonstrate to my audience the importance of finding efficient pathways to creating pharmaceuticals, as I talk to them about my own research in creating piperidine (a common scaffold found in small molecule-based FDA approved drugs) derivatives,” Ellis said. “The research and development costs of medications has increased dramatically over the course of a few years, and I wish to share my concerns and the steps that we could take to mitigate this cost insurgence.”

Ellis said she chose USM for college when she worked as an ACS SEED student in Dr. Song Guo's physical chemistry laboratory during the summer of her junior of high school. “The focus and work ethic I witnessed USM chemistry professors put into their research made me want to pursue my bachelor's degree here,” she said.

As well as Posters on the Hill and Goldwater, Ellis also received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF 2019) through the ACS (American Chemistry Society) Division of Organic Chemistry. Ellis is an undergraduate member of the National ACS, and secretary of the undergraduate chapter of ACS at USM.

She was also recently accepted for the DAAD RISE (Research Internship in Science and Engineering, Germany) internship for summer 2020, selected from 2,204 applicants competing for a total of 320 scholarships.

Ellis earned a McNair scholarship during her sophomore year at USM as a first-generation college student.

“The McNair program has meant a lot to me, as it has helped connect me with other first-generation college students that come from diverse backgrounds,” she said. “All of the McNair scholars have their own stories that have been interspersed with difficulties that they had to have overcome in life.

“I am glad to have been a part of the group that helped each other overcome numerous obstacles, constructing a patchwork quilt of friendship that was unique and could withstand whatever the future had to throw at us.”

For information about the USM Chemistry program, which is housed in the College of Arts and Sciences’ School of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, visit For information about the McNair Scholars program at USM, visit