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USM Undergraduate Zack Wallace Earns Prestigious National Recognition for Research

Fri, 03/15/2024 - 11:31am | By: David Tisdale


A University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Honors College student majoring in polymer science and engineering has earned the notice of prominent scholars in his field of study for his research and promise for future success.

Zacchaeus Wallace, a senior from Jackson, Miss. who graduates in May, is an Honorable Mention recipient in the 4th annual cycle of the Rising Black Scientist Award, a national essay competition sponsored by Cell Press, Cell Signaling Technology (CST), and the Elsevier Foundation that provides both recognition and funding awards in support of the professional development of talented and motivated Black scientists.

Through a partnership with the Elsevier Foundation, this is the second year the awards have been expanded to include the physical, earth and environmental, and data sciences. In addition to the publication of their essays in the journal Cell, winners also receive $10,000 to support their research and a $500 travel grant. Wallace and three other honorable mention recipients were also recognized with $500 each. Their essays are published in the interdisciplinary open access journal iScience.

“Through their stories and accomplishments, this year’s winners of the Rising Black Scientists Awards are examples of excellence to us all,” said John Pham, editor-in-chief of Cell. “My colleagues and I at Cell Press are inspired by them, and we are proud to be sharing their stories.”

In his essay “Memories That Last,” Wallace highlighted his experiences throughout high school and college to indicate the need for more Black representation in STEM. Wallace said the essay prompt required him to share his scientific vision, experiences that sparked his interest in science, and how he wants to contribute to an inclusive scientific community (“Memories that last”  DOI: 10.1016/j.isci.2024.108937).


Zaccheaus Wallace, left, a senior polymer science and engineering student at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), conducts research in the lab of his faculty mentor, Dr. Tristan Clemons (USM photo).

Wallace’s essay was submitted to the Life and Medical Sciences section of the contest, which reflected his research regarding biomedical engineering. From a selection committee of Cell Press editors and an academic advisory board, his work was chosen based on his potential and insight as an early-career scientist.

“To me, this recognition means that the time and effort that I have put into my undergraduate career has paid off and is visible,” Wallace explained. “I feel extremely encouraged that my visions are being supported by Cell Press and corresponding individuals.”

After graduation, Wallace says he’ll continue his scientific journey pursuing a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering, with plans to continue studying health issues to provide novel insights to help produce therapies.

In addition to his stellar academic accomplishments, Wallace has also exemplified himself as a leader on the Hattiesburg campus, serving as president of both Men of Excellence and EagleTHON, and Honors College Leadership Council Ambassador, and vice president of communications for the USM Student Government Association (SGA).

USM Honors College Interim Dean Dr. Joyce Inman said Wallace has “impressed us from the time he came to campus to inquire about the Honors College.”

“Zack has distinguished himself during his time at Southern Miss with his versatility in research, bridging polymer science and life science approaches, and his ability to juggle his academic pursuits and multiple extracurricular activities – all with a smile and a genuineness that inspires everyone he meets,” Dr. Inman continued. “We are particularly proud that Zack’s essay focuses on memories that inspire actions, as he is responsible for mentoring and helping create memories for so many students here at USM. He will be missed when he graduates this spring.”

Wallace praised his research mentor Dr. Tristan Clemons, an assistant professor in the School of Polymer Science and Engineering, who he says, “pushed me to be a better researcher, student, and individual.” 

“With his mentorship, I will go into graduate programs with a deep understanding of research and work ethic,” Wallace continued. “I attribute much of my success to the Clemons Lab, the School of Polymer Science and Engineering, and the Honors College. I thank everyone who has assisted me thus far.”

Dr. Clemons described Wallace as “an exceptional student in our program, not only because of his outstanding research and academic performance, but also for how generous he is with his time in helping and supporting others as a leader on campus and within the community.

“As Zack prepares to embark on the next phase of his academic journey in graduate school, I have no doubt he'll continue to make waves and leave a lasting impact,” Dr. Clemons further noted. “It's been an absolute privilege to be part of his journey thus far, and I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing all the incredible things he'll accomplish in the future.”