Press Release  


Naval Academy Midshipman Receives Excellence in Chemistry Award

Posted on: April 17, 2014 08:00 EDT

Press Release #: #044-14

ANNAPOLIS, Md.— Naval Academy Midshipmen 1st Class (senior) Brynn Umbach, 22, of The Woodlands, Texas, is the recipient of the 2014 Undergraduate Award for Excellence in Chemistry from Iota Sigma Pi (ISP) National Honor Society’s for Women.

The winner is considered by ISP to be the most outstanding female, undergraduate chemistry student in the nation. The student is selected from a pool of candidates nominated by their professors at numerous colleges and universities across the country. Umbach, a chemistry major, is the first Naval Academy midshipman to receive the award.

Umbach was nominated for of her outstanding academic achievement, scientific skill, dedication, leadership and drive to help those in need. Her research of lipid content and composition of extremophilic and estuarine microalgae for suitability as biofuel feedstock has led her to an ambitious multi-year research project on the development of algal biofuels. 

"I was in the laboratory for about two and a half years doing independent research," said Umbach. "When I look back on when I started working in the lab at 7:45 a.m. and left the lab when it was starting to get dark around 5 p.m., and I can confidently say that it was all worth it." 

Dr. Charles Sweet, a professor in the Naval Academy’s chemistry department, supervised Umbach throughout her research.

"She is the most impressive student I've encountered in many years of instructing undergraduates in both the classroom and the lab," said Sweet. "In a laboratory setting she is more like a graduate student than an undergraduate, involved not just in conducting her experiments but also in their design, direction, and interpretation.”

Umbach started her path in chemistry in high school where she completed one year of chemistry and one semester of organic chemistry.

"My high school courses set me up for great success as a chemistry major at the Naval Academy," said Umbach. "I was fortunate enough to go to an excellent public, specialty high school."

Umbach added that as a result of all the chemistry she took at The Woodlands College Park High School, she was able to accelerate her major courses at the Naval Academy, allowing her to do two complete years of research.

"She is one of a very few people I've met whom I'm certain will make a real difference and have a positive impact, not just to those around her, not just as a naval officer, but in the country and in the world," said Sweet.

Founded in 1845, the U.S. Naval Academy today is a prestigious four-year service academy that prepares midshipmen morally, mentally and physically to be professional officers in the naval service.  More than 4,400 men and women representing every state in the U.S. and several foreign countries make up the student body, known as the Brigade of Midshipmen. U.S. News and World Reports has recognized the Naval Academy as a top five undergraduate engineering school and a top 20 best liberal arts college.  Midshipmen learn from military and civilian instructors and participate in intercollegiate varsity sports and extracurricular activities. They also study subjects like small arms, drill, seamanship and navigation, tactics, naval engineering and weapons, leadership, ethics and military law.  Upon graduation, midshipmen earn a federally funded Bachelor of Science degree in a choice of 25 different subject majors and go on to serve at least five years of exciting and rewarding service as commissioned officers in the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps.

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