Published April 30, 2015
Pennante Naa Ayikailey “Penny” Bruce-Vanderpuije, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Chemistry, has received the prestigious 2015 Schlumberger Foundation Faculty for the Future Fellowship.
The one-year, renewable award grants female students from developing countries or emerging economies up to $50,000 to pursue a doctoral or postdoctoral program in a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field.
After completing their studies, recipients are expected to return to their home country to strengthen university faculties and address issues on women in STEM fields.
Bruce-Vanderpuije will join a community of more than 550 fellows from more than 60 countries.
“I enjoy passing on knowledge to others,” says Bruce-Vanderpuije. “I believe that whatever I have gained from my professors, I should pass on to others and help individuals achieve better lives for themselves.”
Originally from Ghana, Bruce-Vanderpuije was drawn into environmental chemistry after observing the effects pollutants and toxins had on her community.
“Growing up, I’ve witnessed people die from ingesting contaminated food,” she says. “I gradually came to the realization that I was interested in chemical analysis.”
Through the Commonwealth Scholarship, Bruce-Vanderpuije earned a master’s degree in environmental policy and management from the University of Gloucestershire in the United Kingdom.
Before returning to school to earn a doctoral degree, Bruce-Vanderpuije worked at the U.K.’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science Center, where she analyzed fish, soil and water samples for environmental contaminants.
Bruce-Vanderpuije also holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana and a master’s degree in chemistry from Saint Louis University.
At UB, Bruce-Vanderpuije is continuing her studies on pollutant identification and measurement under Joseph A. Gardella Jr., SUNY Distinguished Professor and John and Frances Larkin Professor of Chemistry, and Diana Aga, professor of chemistry.
Her current projects range from examining pesticide and herbicide levels in food and urine to analyzing the diffusion of flame-retardant chemicals in camping-tent fabrics.
As a teaching assistant, Bruce-Vanderpuije’s time and funding for research is limited. The Faculty for the Future Fellowship will allow her to focus on her studies and publish in her field.
“It is a great honor for Penny to be awarded this fellowship,” says Gardella. “Penny is focused on helping her country through her own actions and those of the next generations of students in Ghana. I believe she will have a profound impact based on the work she has done and plans to do. The freedom and support that the fellowship provides is a critical factor to achieving her dreams,” he says.
Outside of the lab, Bruce-Vanderpuije volunteers her time teaching science to students in Buffalo Public Schools through the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP) program, which is directed by Gardella.
“It’s a great experience; you interact with students who are actually interested in performing basic experiments,” says Bruce-Vanderpuije. “It brings joy to them and myself because I never had this exposure growing up. I’m reliving my younger school years through these kids.”
The Faculty for the Future Fellowship is supported by Schlumberger, an oilfield services company.