Levi Palmer's Honors Experience

October 11, 2019
Levi Palmer engages in research in the Frontiera Lab
Meeting with Senator Carrie Ruud
Climbing to a view overlooking the Western Ghats in Bengaluru

By Levi Palmer, UHP Student; B.S. Chemistry, Class of 2020; Frontiera Lab; Representatives to the Board of Regents Fellow

As a chemistry major within the University Honors Program (UHP) at the University of Minnesota, I have access to a multitude of resources to further my education and career. Not only are UHP students able to personally connect with faculty; we are given the opportunity to further engage in coursework, the community, and beyond.

I began my research in chemistry as a freshman in Professor Renee Frontiera’s lab. I was integrated into my research with a project that uses lasers to examine various optical properties occurring at the nanoscale. Specifically, I used Raman spectroscopy to analyze how the colorful nanostructures on butterfly wings can enhance the detection of chemicals. This work advanced my career by providing interest and experience in highly-technical and experimental research. Even as an undergraduate, I have been able to produce and publish graduate-level research which can help open doors to top-tier graduate programs around the world. My scientific successes in UHP have allowed me to present at national conferences and gain further experience with a research fellowship at California Institute of Technology. My research associates at Caltech were impressed with the skills I acquired from Minnesota’s programs, and I am confident that UHP provides an avenue to learn from and engage with the best and brightest scientists of today. Because of our experiences, UHP students have access to nationally-competitive, research-oriented awards including the Goldwater, Fulbright, and Astronaut Scholarships.

I am also fortunate to have been able to engage in Honors Experiences outside of Chemistry, including learning abroad and grand challenge curriculum. I conducted research in India with a learning abroad course titled “Design for Sustainable Development.” Students in the course explored the city of Bengaluru, India and examined the city’s challenges with water, waste, and health. After learning about the societal culture of Bengaluru, my team was able to suggest human-centered solutions to sanitary water storage in the form of a business platform. If interested, students in the course were able to continue this work with further global business design and research.

After this eye-opening experience in Bengaluru, I was inspired to continue environmental and impactful actions here at the University of Minnesota. This led me to our grand challenge curriculum with courses like “Engaging Climate Action” and “How can we Transition Minnesota to a Carbon-Free Economy?” This project-based curriculum allowed me to design a campaign seeking to establish a coalition of students, faculty, and administration with goals of promoting legislation for 100% Minnesota-made, renewably-generated electricity by the year 2050. Our hope has been to create a faculty/student task force which presents the research successes of our university that make 100% clean energy viable. Not only will this task force lay out a clear path toward a clean energy transition, it will present how our university is already committed to the future of its students and its state. With this endeavor, my team and I have been able to meet with Minnesota Senators to discuss this action plan. I was very excited to meet with my own Senator, Carrie Ruud.

This is only the beginning of the offerings provided by The University Honors Program. Each student’s story is unique, and UHP is a program that acknowledges the interests and endeavors of students within all colleges in our interdisciplinary and engaged university.