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Student Spotlight: Bailey Shedden explores chemistry beyond borders with NSF program

By: Brian Dunn September 6, 2023

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Bailey Shedden is third from the right.
IRES 2023
Bailey Shedden is third from the right.

Austin Peay State University senior Bailey Shedden ventured beyond national boundaries this summer, participating in a unique international research opportunity.

Shedden, originally from Smyrna, Tennessee, was one of six students from the College of STEM at Austin Peay who spent several weeks of their summer in Europe. This opportunity was part of a three-year, $300,000 International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) grant from the National Science Foundation. This grant aims to send 18 Austin Peay students to partner universities in the Czech Republic, France and Poland over three years. Shedden’s journey follows the previous summer when five other students embarked on a similar experience.

An accomplished chemistry major with a biochemistry concentration and a minor in mathematics, Shedden spent the initial three weeks of her seven-week journey in a lab at University of Pardubice in the Czech Republic.

“At the lab, I worked on the research on my own with guidance from a Ph.D. student,” Shedden said. “It differed from the Austin Peay setting, where professors oversee specific projects.”

Her research focused on creating thin films from glass, then characterizing and structuring these films for potential use in information storage. This application of her study has solidified her interest in science and revealed a broad spectrum of possibilities within the field.

“It affirmed my decision to pursue science,” Shedden said. “It also broadened my perspective on what I can achieve with my degree.”

Shedden’s research culminated in a presentation in Warsaw, marking the first time for cross-university collaboration with NSF/IRES students from the University of Alabama and Adelphi University.

While her research took center stage, Shedden also navigated cultural differences during her time abroad. She observed the Czech locals’ propensity to avoid eye contact and interactions with strangers, starkly contrasting the typical US social behavior.

“I’m now determined to attend graduate school,” Shedden said. “I aim to perform well here and carry that momentum into graduate studies, potentially in toxicology and forensics.”

Shedden’s experience is a testament to the unique academic opportunities available at Austin Peay, encouraging others to explore these paths.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation International Research for Students (IRES) grant (Project No. NSF OISE-2106457).

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