LU's Townley-Smith named TSUS Regents' Student Scholar
Lamar University senior Keeley Townley-Smith has been named Texas State University System Regents’ Student Scholar. As such, she becomes the first so honored from LU, and represents the very best student scholars from among the more than 66,000 undergraduates enrolled in TSUS colleges and universities.
Each year, the TSUS Board of Regents recognizes one outstanding student from a TSUS member institution with the Regents' Scholar Award. Regents' Scholars are selected by the chancellor based on their outstanding academic achievement and scholarship, leadership abilities and contributions to the institution and their community. In addition to a framed resolution and medallion, the Regents' Scholar receives a $2,500 scholarship.
“Keeley’s world is physics and her excitement about it is contagious,” said Ken Evans, president of Lamar University. “Lamar University is extremely proud of Keeley. She embodies the qualities sought by this prestigious recognition.”
“Keeley is one of our finest physics majors,” said Cristian Bahrim, professor of physics. “I am certain that in the years to come, Keeley will be one of those scientists that will lead our national research efforts in science and help effectively to keep the scientific leadership of the United States.”
“As a young female scientist, Keeley can inspire that part of the student body which historically has had an unjustified hesitation to be involved in STEM disciplines,” Bahrim said in his letter of support, calling her “an inspiration for a younger generation of scientists and engineers.”
The physics and electrical engineering major from Lumberton said “the strong reputation of Lamar University’s engineering program drew me to Lamar University.”
In her physics courses, Townley-Smith became involved in atomic spectroscopy research, in which the electromagnetic spectrum is used to determine elemental composition of matter, in early 2013. She works with LU’s STAIRSTEP program, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, and the Sigma Pi Sigma Astronomical project funded by the American Institute of Physics. Townley-Smith and other physics students used spectroscopy to identify pollutants in the Earth’s atmosphere by examining the emission spectra of various elements and compounds.
When she shared her results at regional physics conferences in Texas she “discovered I could stand toe-to-toe with students from research institutions that lead our nation in physics and astronomy.”
Her desire to do additional research inspired her to apply for the David J. Beck Fellowship a unique, competitive undergraduate fellowship that covers all expenses for one year and provides up to $10,000 for a summer project.
As one of Lamar University’s two David J. Beck Fellows in 2014, she pursued her research in atomic spectroscopy with singly ionized manganese in the world-class laboratories of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) under the direction of international caliber physicists. The following summer, she returned to NIST to formerly write up her results and gain valuable laboratory experience. Her work there inspired her to pursue her Ph.D. on the spectral and energy level analysis of titanium at Imperial College of London.
“Her achievements go far beyond research,” Bahrim said. “An outstanding leader, she is president of LU’s Society of Physics Students for the past two years and prior to that was secretary and Webmaster.” Additionally, Townley-Smith served as secretary of LU’s chapter of Rotaract, which is affiliated with Rotary International. She also participates in LU’s Honors Program, where she serves as a peer mentor, worked as an electrical engineering intern at Huntsman in Port Neches, and is a Lamar University Ambassador.
“I wouldn’t trade my college experience for the world because it has taught me more about myself in the past four years than the first 18,” she said.