Mercedes Winfrey, a recent graduate of the University at Pine Bluff, was accepted into The College of Optics & Photonics (CREOL) at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida.


She has also acquired summer employment at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington.


Under the National GEM Consortium Fellowship, Winfrey was offered two years of full tuition, a living stipend, and summer employment throughout her completion of the Master’s program, according to a news release.


The Chicago, Illinois, native is majoring in physics with a minor in mathematics. While at UAPB, Winfrey had been an active member of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Academy, the Carolyn Blakely Honors College, TRiO Student Support Services, and Alpha Chi National Honor’s Society.


After her first undergraduate year, Winfrey was an intern at the Kennedy Space Center where she participated in the Launching 2 Learn (L2L) Project. Students were required to build, launch, and successfully retrieve level 1 and level 2 high powered rockets, eventually becoming level 1 certified by NAR, the National Association of Rocketry. They were also instructed to do research analysis of level 2 K445 rocket flight.


The next summer, she did research at Washington State University where she worked for the Laboratory of Atmospheric Chemistry. Winfrey was responsible for extensive literary research, the recording of data, working with a 3-D printer, and also presenting her work at the WSU REU summer symposium.


Her research, under the instruction of Von Walden was titled, “Measuring CO2 Emissions as a Basis for Understanding Indoor Air Quality and Ventilation Rates,” also received recognition from Noel N. Schulz, Washington State University’s first lady and a professor in the WSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture.


Last summer, she successfully completed an internship with NASA again in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Glenn Research Center (GRC), working on hybrid-electric propulsion. Under a CAS Incubation effort, Winfrey and four other undergraduate students from universities around the country comprised their project “Gas Electric Propulsion for Civilian Commuter Operations,” exploring the likelihood of flying cars.


“With the guidance and mentorship from Alonzo Ashley, Stanford University Emeritus and recipient of the prestigious President Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), I have been able to reach my full potential as an African American female in the field of STEM,” she said.


Winfrey also thanks the Physics and Chemistry Department faculty, and others who helped her at UAPB.


“If you have the will and stamina, you can excel in STEM disciplines as long as you put your mind on the final goal,” she said. “Go Golden Lions, you have transformed me towards a successful path of academia.”