Biochemistry student wins statewide competition

June 13, 2024

Biochemistry student Ryan Mehlem (third from left) was part of the winning group.

Senior biochemistry student Ryan Mehlem was part of a group that won the Pay it Forward competition, sponsored by South Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives.

The Pay it Forward competition challenges students at Clemson University, South Carolina State University or the University of South Carolina to propose solutions to pressing social and economic problems in rural areas. Students work as teams to create a solution to a long-standing issue, presented as a research paper and video.

Other students in the winning group include Mercy Crapps and Natalia Nortz, both biological sciences majors. The group received $1,000 for their design for a mobile STEM academy toolkit that provides resources, volunteer support and community outreach to students in rural South Carolina schools. The STEM education toolkit helps teachers provide their students with an experiential learning approach that can complement textbook learning or computer simulations in the classroom.

“I remember from my middle school experience, I was able to do some molecular biology practices and techniques which was exciting and interesting,” said Mehlem. “And now I work with those in my own research, pretty much every day.”

When building their STEM education project proposal, the team’s research focused mostly on middle schools, talking to staff at several rural schools throughout the state before developing their initiative.

The trio plans to start with fewer than 10 schools before refining their toolkit and expanding to other locations.


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