Otterbein Students Awarded Two of Nine Competitive Ohio EPA Scholarships

Posted Aug 15, 2022

The Ohio EPA recently announced the recipients of their 2022 Environmental Scholarship Winners, and out of nine recipients, two were from Otterbein University: Katie Kirk ’23 and Hanna Sturgeon ’23.

Students were selected based on academic performance, as well as research, employment/internships, leadership, letters of recommendation from education or environmental professionals, and other specified criteria.

“By investing in these environmental scholars today, we are actually investing in protecting the environment far into the future,” said Ohio EPA Director Laurie A. Stevenson. “We look forward to seeing their future work as well.”

Since the scholarship program began in 2000, more than $1 million has been awarded statewide to 398 students at 52 Ohio colleges and universities. Funding comes from civil penalties collected by Ohio EPA for violations of air and water pollution control laws. The scholarship program is administered by the Ohio Academy of Science.

We asked the Otterbein recipients a few questions about their research and hopes for the future.

Katie Kirk

Katie Kirk ’23
: Biology, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Minor: Chemistry
Hometown: Sardinia, Ohio

What research are you working on?

I currently have two different research projects. The first one I am working on is with Dr. Brandon Sinn studying the Asarum Mitogenome. The second project I am working on is with Dr. Jeffrey Lehman studying Alocasia baginda and how it fits into the Alocasia phylogenetic tree. I also work at Ohio State University in the Plant Pathology Department with Dr. Horacio Lopez-Nicora, where I help process soil samples for various soybean nematodes.

Is there any professor who has made an impact on you?

There are several professors who have had a large impact on the scientist I am today. The first is Dr. Brandon Sinn — he got me started on my first research project and sparked my love for plants when he was teaching the Intro Biology course at Otterbein. The second is Dr. Jeffrey Lehman — he also helped spark my love for plants as he teaches the plant-based course, as well as genetics. The last is Dr. John Tansey — he teaches all things biochemistry and general chemistry classes on campus. He has always been a helpful professor and mentor and made biochemistry interesting, which helped shape my plans for after college.

What are your post-college plans?

My post-college plans are to find a job in the biochemistry industry. I want to continue doing research but also explore more on the biochemical pathways as I find it quite fascinating. I may go back to graduate school in the future, but I’m taking a year or two off to explore all my options and find the best path for me.

How does it feel to win this scholarship?  

I feel completely honored to have won this scholarship, I have applied for this scholarship in the past and have not received it, so winning this feels like all my hard work and perseverance have paid off.

What research are you working on?

In my sophomore and junior year, I worked on an independent study under Dr. Kevin Svitana utilizing GIS mapping software to illustrate and compile data regarding polling locations and precinct centers affecting our students who vote in the Westerville area.

Is there any professor who has made an impact on you?

Dr. Svitana has been the best advisor during my time at Otterbein as an Environmental Science and Sustainability Studies student. After being in at least one of his classes each semester, he has helped me learn and grow in numerous ways. It was through his encouragement that I added my third major and double minor so I could further my knowledge in the field of environmental science.

What are your post-college plans?

Currently, I am working at Clean Fuels Ohio managing the administration of a variety of federal and private grants. Post-graduation, I plan to stay in the environmental sector working closely alongside state and local governments. In the future I hope to return to school to obtain my master’s degree.

How does it feel to win this scholarship?

I am highly honored to be receiving a scholarship from an organization that has helped to pave the way for the field I am studying to spend my future in!

Hannah Sturgeon

Hannah Sturgeon ’23
: Environmental Science, Sustainability Studies, Political Science
Minors: Earth Science and Legal Studies.
Hometown: Granville, Ohio.