Innovation Scholar Sarah Browning pauses before her next Chemistry lab near some of Carolina's newest science and research buildings.
Already a student with varied interests, Browning sands a part of the moonbuggy her team made for NASA's Great Moonbuggy Race.
Learn, lead and innovate
After three years of fundraising, research and trials, the moment finally arrived: Jack Britt High School had made it to NASA’s 2011 Great Moonbuggy Race. Two days later, the members of the first and only team from North Carolina in the race, led by senior Sarah Browning, won the international competition.
“We won the Crash and Burn Award,” Browning lightheartedly recalled.
The project began when she was a first-year student in the Jack Britt Integrated Systems Technology Academy of Engineering. Browning became captain of the team her senior year, and despite the unfortunate breakdown at the race, she was able to leave knowing that her leadership produced other great leaders as well.
“It was amazing to see the light bulb flick on for them,” she said. “When the race ended, they were already thinking of ideas for next year and how to improve.”
A rising sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill, Browning is on the other side as one of Carolina’s first Innovation Scholars. She’s learning from leaders while continuing to make her own path.
The Carolina Innovation Scholarship Program is part of the Innovate@Carolina initiative adopted by UNC in early 2010. It is also closely tied to the entrepreneurship minor in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“The idea behind Innovate@Carolina is to find what you’re really passionate about and, with the outstanding resources that you have, use that to solve one of today’s problems,” said Browning.
Resources to promote entrepreneurial efforts
The program covers the full cost of tuition, fees, room and board and is renewable for four years. It also provides scholars with resources to promote entrepreneurial efforts.
Browning had already resolved to commit to UNC before receiving the scholarship, but she said it solidified her decision. She added that being a part of the innovation scholarship program and of the UNC family has provided her with an extensive network and support system comprised of students and faculty to whom she can turn when she needs guidance.
During her first year on campus, she took a first-year seminar based on a book coauthored by UNC faculty member Buck Goldstein and UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp titled “Engines of Innovation: the Entrepreneurial University in the 21st Century.” Browning says that Goldstein and Lizzy Hazeltine, internship director for the entrepreneurship minor, are mentors and “go-to people” for the Innovation Scholars.
Through the entrepreneurship minor, Browning was connected to the laboratory of Joe DeSimone. DeSimone is Chancellor’s Eminent Professor of Chemistry at UNC and William R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at NC State University and of Chemistry at UNC. Browning spent the 2012 spring semester shadowing graduate students and postdoctoral scientists in the lab.
“I watched experiments, learned about the equipment and procedures, and saw how professional write-ups are put together,” Browning said. “I got to see how a running, functional lab works.”
The experience helped her decide on an academic major, two actually – Biology and Global Studies. “Working in the lab, I saw both Chemistry and Biology in practice. I realized that I liked Biology more, and I’m glad that I got the exposure to both so early on.”
Published July 23, 2012.