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Senior Wins Prestigious Skaggs-Oxford Scholarship

With a Goldwater and National Science Foundation grant under her belt, Anne Kornahrens is first BC students to land Skaggs-Oxford Scholarship

Anne Kornahrens ’11 has compiled an impressive array of achievements during her undergraduate years at Boston College. (Photo by Caitlin Cunningham)

By Jack Dunn | Director of News & Public Affairs

Published: May 12, 2011

Senior chemistry major Anne Kornahrens has become the first Boston College student to win the prestigious Skaggs-Oxford Scholarship, a joint five-year PhD/D.Phil. program of study at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, Calif., and the University of Oxford, which trains researchers in integrated biosciences.   

Kornahrens, a Presidential Scholar from Minnesota who earned a Goldwater Scholarship as a junior and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship earlier this year, will study organic chemistry at Oxford for the next two years before embarking on three years of chemistry studies at TSRI’s Kellogg School of Science and Technology. Established in 2003, the Skaggs-Oxford Scholarship funds 10 students in total “whose research will help to develop drugs and treatments to alleviate human suffering.” It accepts just one or two students each year.    

“I was looking to study abroad when I discovered the Skaggs-Oxford Scholarship,” said Kornahrens.  “I have always wanted to work in pharmaceuticals developing medicines that can save people’s lives. This program will help me to achieve my goal.”  

Kornahrens has been conducting research since her freshman year, working with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Jason Kingsbury on a methodology study that expands molecules’ frameworks through carbon insertion. She credits Kingsbury as a mentor who helped her to fall in love with organic chemistry. 

“He treated me like a grad student, put me on my own projects and encouraged me to study abroad,” said Kornahrens. “I grew a lot in my research skills and independent thinking, which has prepared me well to go on and do graduate research.”          

Kornahrens also cites her faculty mentor, Chemistry Professor Larry Scott, as an individual who helped challenge her to enhance her skills and research acumen.

“Professor Scott has been very instrumental in things I pursued, while also encouraging me to apply for things I did not know about such as the Goldwater Scholarship and the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Both of these mentors saw more for me and in me than I did in myself.”  

The daughter of an engineer who introduced her to the joys of science experiments at a young age, Kornahrens took AP chemistry in high school before entering the honors chemistry program at BC. She wrote a research proposal on how to target natural products that have biological relevance in anti-bacterial activity, which earned her the NSF Fellowship to pursue a PhD in chemistry.  She was accepted to every doctoral program to which she applied, says Scott, including Stanford, California Tech, Yale and Columbia universities, as well as the University of California at Berkeley. Ultimately, she chose the Skaggs-Oxford Scholarship to fulfill a longstanding desire to study at Oxford University. 

“In sum, Anne Kornahrens is a remarkable young woman,” says Scott.  “She is extremely energetic, incredibly bright, unabashedly fearless and thoroughly prepared for graduate studies in what is arguably one of the best chemistry PhD programs in the world.  I am proud to have been her mentor for four years at BC.”         

Outside of the classroom, Kornahrens brings the same trademark energy to her volunteer efforts that distinguish her academic pursuits. She has sung at Mass every Sunday as a four-year member of the Liturgy Arts Group, and served as a volunteer at the Italian Home for Children in Jamaica Plain, where she prepared lessons and chemistry experiments for abandoned children, many of who were severely abused.   

This year, she also volunteered in the Campus School’s “Creative Kids” program, playing the tambourine to engage the students in the joy of music. She also spent the second semester of her junior year at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, where she studied physical chemistry and engaged in an undergraduate chemistry research project while also pursuing her passion for scuba diving.   

“Anne always gets the most out of whatever she is doing and never lets an opportunity slip by her,” says Scott. “She has a kind heart and an upbeat disposition that enlivens any crowd. She is an extraordinary person who is clearly destined for success.”  

Presidential Scholars Program Director and Founders Professor James Keenan, SJ, says Kornahrens is “much admired” among her fellow Presidential Scholars for her research and her work as the natural sciences senior editor of the undergraduate research journal Elements, and as a member of the Women in Science & Technology Program, where she serves as a mentor for female students from high schools in the Boston area.    

“I was never told that I couldn’t do something, and I never thought that I couldn’t do something on my own,” says Kornahrens. “For me, it is important to give people the opportunity to believe in themselves. I never doubted it in my own case.      

“I have been blessed with the gifts I have been given and I want to find a way to give back,” she says. “I don’t know exactly what I will do, but I always felt that chemistry and Boston College would help me to get there.”