Story by Tyler Carter
The University of Mississippi Graduate School has selected two outstanding students — Caroline Turnage-Butterbaugh and Amanda Waters — to serve as class marshals for this year’s doctoral hooding ceremony on May 9 and university commencement on May 10.
Turnage-Butterbaugh is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Mathematics who excels in her field of endeavor. Currently, she has an academic paper published with her adviser and a paper under review titled “Consecutive Primes of Tuples.”
Graduate students don’t have much leisure time, but Turnage-Butterbaugh makes sure to make time for herself.
“I really enjoy Pilates,” she said. “I take the Pilates and Spin [fitness] classes. It’s a good time to go and let your mind reset, and it gives me time to relax and get away from the math for awhile.”
Turnage-Butterbaugh won both the Graduate Student Achievement Award in Mathematics 2013 and the Graduate Instructor Excellence in Teaching Award. She was floored about receiving the teaching award since teaching is a passion of hers.
“This award really hit home for me because it is rewarding teaching and helping students who are willing to put in the time and effort to understand something they feel is really confusing,” Turnage-Butterbaugh said. “To be there for [students] when they turn the light bulb on for themselves is rewarding.”
Opportunities are flowing in for Turnage-Butterbaugh while she is deciding what may be next for her after she completes her Ph.D.
“This summer, I will be working at an REU (Research Experience for Undergrads) in math at Williams College in Massachusetts, where I will be working with undergraduate students with research projects,” Turnage-Butterbaugh said. “I am interested in having that kind of opportunity because I really want to work with undergrads and gain a research component so they can have an idea of what a mathematician is.”
Turnage-Butterbaugh will begin a postdoctoral fellowship at North Dakota State University in the fall, and from there, she eventually hopes to obtain a tenured position doing research.
She said she appreciates the opportunities she gained while being at UM. She received the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need fellowship that allowed her to travel to attend conferences as well as network with people, which has helped her when applying for jobs. Turnage-Butterbaugh also would like to thank Micah Milinovich, assistant professor of mathematics and her adviser, for pushing her to understand things she did not previously, helping her with her writing, teaching practices and his willingness to take her on as his student so soon after earning his Ph.D. and joining the faculty.
The second class marshal representing the UM Graduate School is Amanda Waters.
Waters graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and then decided to attend UM in fall 2009 to pursue graduate studies in pharmaceutical science with an emphasis in pharmacognosy. In Waters’ first year, she served as a research assistant for Mark Hamann, professor of pharmacognosy, where she gained experience in natural product isolation and elucidation from marine microbial sponge sources, microbial culture techniques for marine sediment, as well as writing and submitting grant applications.
In spring 2011, Amanda served as a teaching assistant for the department, assisting with two courses: PHCG 422 (Natural Product Derived Pharmaceuticals) and PHCG 425 (Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms). That semester, Waters was also awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to continue her graduate studies in the department.
Students change their fields of study for numerous reasons, but for Waters, the path to obtaining her bachelor’s degree in chemistry was an interesting one.
“When I was in my senior year of high school, I originally wanted to be an accountant, but I changed directions and took my first chemistry class and fell in love,” Waters said. “I decided to pursue the type of chemistry that helps people, so I decided to embark on the medicinal chemistry track, and I fell in love with the natural products. Since hearing my adviser speak about natural products my freshman year at Oklahoma, I have been in it since that day.”
Waters said she was enticed by the prestige of UM’s pharmacognosy program.
“It is ranked as the number three or four best program in the nation,” Waters said. “I wanted to focus on pharmacognosy and the marine side of things, and Dr. Hamann was really well known for marine and natural products so that’s why I wanted to come here.”
Waters’ story is a true testament to how life as a graduate student is almost strictly about the books. When asked about her hobbies, she said, “There’s downtime? Graduate school has been very constant, 80-hour work weeks. There is a lot of research that gets done, a lot of long hours, but when I do have free time, I like to read. Free time is a foreign concept to me.”
The amount of time Waters spends on her work reflects her dedication to research and her commitment to helping people.
“You don’t notice the hours or time,” Waters said. “I told my family early on, the day that I don’t get up feeling like going to work is the day I will get out of it. I get up every morning and no matter what else is going on, I want to be in the lab, I want to be researching, I want to hopefully find the next cure for cancer.”
In the fall, Waters will matriculate to a position with the National Cancer Institute, where she will be a postdoctoral fellow there for at least two years. She is also considering academic research.
Waters said she appreciates the pharmacy school staff members who give their all in trying to help her as well as other graduate students in their career and research endeavors. She noted the supportive community of advisers and professors who genuinely want their students to succeed and said she is thankful for that.
Currently, Waters has four manuscripts published and expects to have four more published by late summer or early fall.