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Chancellor's Fellow earns paid summer internship and $5000 scholarship

chancellor's fellow
Matt Cavazza, left, and professor Rob Mathers analyze data in the campus Chemistry lab.
4/27/2011 —


Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering Major Researches Bio-Fuels

Matt Cavazza, sophomore petroleum and natural gas engineering major at Penn State New Kensington, was awarded recently a Dominion Diversity Scholarship and internship.

Sponsored by Dominion Resources Inc., one of the nation's largest producers and transporters of energy, the program provides Cavazza a paid summer internship at the company's offices in North Canton, Ohio, as well as a $5,000 scholarship for the fall. Dominion is headquartered in Richmond, Virginia.

"Dominion will give me an opportunity to gain valuable experience by working with industry professionals," said Cavazza, a native of Indiana, Pennsylvania, and graduate of Marion Center High School. "My experience will include learning new skills and sampling new technologies that support the energy industry."

The 12-week internship program is highly competitive. Based on an essay and a letter of recommendation, six hundred applicants were interviewed by a five-person panel. Cavazza earned one of the 24 summer positions. The program is structured to prepare students for both work and life after graduation. According to Dominion, work sessions are structured, supervised, professional, and career-related assignments that will allow Cavazza to develop a network of contacts, assess his strengths, and test classroom theories in real world settings.

"I am majoring in petroleum and natural gas engineering, and I will be working with a company that is one of the largest natural gas transmission companies in the mid-Atlantic area," said Cavazza, who has presented his research at the campus' annual Undergraduate and Research Expositions. "The scholarship will help significantly with my college tuition next year."

The campus' Chancellor Fellowship program provided the springboard for Cavazza's internship. Since arriving on the New Kensington campus, Cavazza has researched and experimented with bio-fuels, working under the mentorship of Robert Mathers, associate professor of chemistry. Under the fellowship program, students collaborate with faculty on specific projects. Cavazza and Mathers analyzed bio-fuel additives as alternative fuel sources.

"I learned a lot of from Dr. Mathers, especially about laboratory equipment, and how to conduct experiments correctly for solid data," said Cavazza, a two-year member of the campus Honors Program. "I worked more independently then I expected, but with many hours logged in the chemistry lab, I become familiar with the equipment and procedures."

Penn State New Kensington embarked on the Chancellor Fellows initiatives in 2009 to attract some of western Pennsylvania's best and brightest to the campus.  Designed to recruit greater numbers of academically-talented high school seniors, the initiative provides students with tremendous opportunities to gain "on-the-job" experiences that are rarely found at the freshman level.

By partnering with faculty during the academic year, freshmen learn first-hand the intricacies of scholarly analysis and gain valuable research experience that is usually reserved for upperclassmen and master's degree candidates. The benefits are two-fold:  students acquire knowledge and understanding of the working world; and faculty and staff receive support for research and programming.

"Matt is great to work with and he has gathered a lot of really good data in the lab," said Mathers, who holds a doctorate in polymer science from the University of Akron, and joined the New Kensington campus faculty in 2004  "His project involved the integration of common petroleum-based chemicals, such as dicylcopentadiene, with renewable resources.  We have submitted the results of this research for publication."  

The lore of the fellowship program and the chance to develop a one-on-one relationship with campus faculty was enough to persuade Cavazza to matriculate at the New Kensington campus for his first two years of study. He heads to the University Park campus in the fall to complete his undergraduate work in the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences.

"I was accepted at University Park as a freshman, but the opportunities I was given with the chancellor fellowship at New Kensington changed my mind," said Cavazza.  "I was responsible for performing my own experiments and extracting data from them. I also enjoyed the small class sizes."

For more about Chancellor's Fellowships and other scholarships at the campus, visit http://www.nk.psu.edu/Academics/scholarships.htm online.

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