Samantha Rinehart '14

A driven and devoted student, Samantha Rinehart ’14 has recently become a Ph.D. candidate in the chemistry program at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.  

Specializing in polymer science, Samantha currently works under the advisement of Dr. Mark Dadmun. She teamed up with a group that utilizes several different techniques to investigate the behaviors and properties of polymeric materials. Her project studies the interactions of polymers, in order to modify and improve surfaces using neutron reflectivity.

“This research has the potential to encompass a wide array of applications: from improving the quality and durability of the multi-layered coatings for cars, to even as intricate as efficiently depositing thin films utilized in electronics,” says Samantha.

During her studies, she has conducted most of her research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, but has also had the opportunity to take many trips to Gaithersburg, Maryland to work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Samantha graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Lewis University, where she was able to participate in undergraduate research, under the guidance of Associate Professor, Chair of Chemistry Dr. Jason Keleher, that shaped her into the knowledgeable young professional she is today.

“Having the experience in  not only how to design and conduct experiments, but also analyzing and presenting results to various audiences, provided me with a solid foundation,” Samantha says confidently.  “I have applied all of those useful skills in my current studies, and will continue to do so for the entirety of my scientific career. 

After earning her Ph.D., Samantha aspires to work in the research field- whether that is in industry or at a national lab.

During her time at Lewis, Samantha was honored by The Lincoln Academy of Illinois; was awarded a paid fellowship during the summer for 2012 as part of the Lewis University Summer Undergraduate Research Experience where her work focused on the synthesis and characterization of Biomimetic Antimicrobial Nanocomposites for Next Generation Wound Management Materials; and she presented in local and international forums including the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, Lewis University Celebration of Scholarship and the 2013 Tech Connect World Conference. She also presented her team’s research in a poster presentation for the 18th Annual Posters on the Hill event on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., where only 60 students in the country were selected to present posters at the event. In addition to her extensive studies, Samantha kept extremely busy as a very recognizable member and captain of the Lewis Women’s Basketball team. She was a tutor and Teacher’s Assistant for a college level physics course and also a part of Iota Sigma Pi, a national honor society for women in chemistry, Tri Beta, a Biological Honor Society, the American Chemical Society, and several other organizations. She is grateful for the opportunity that Lewis provided to her to explore various avenues of interests through athletics, academics, and other extracurricular activities. “I did not realize the impact the close-knit Lewis community would have on me until I left, and began attending a much larger university,” adds Samantha.

School keeps Samantha relatively busy, but she always looks forward to going out for some good Mexican food or an occasional round of golf in her spare time. She also loves to volunteer at chemistry camps for middle schoolers over the summer and attend any athletic event she can. Samantha’s biggest piece of advice to current students is to get involved and stay involved as much as possible, because it will pay off in the long run.

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