When Jennifer, a double chemistry and mathematics major, isn’t hitting the books, leading an organic chemistry supplemental instruction session, setting up physics labs, working on a water filtration project through the Collaboratory, or even conducting nanotechnology research for the U.S. Department of Energy, she’s among friends—the canine kind—in Peach Bottom, Pennsylvania.
Esbenshade, a former homeschooler, has been training guide dogs for the visually impaired since 2000. “I started the Puppies with a Purpose program as a shy 11-year-old with an adorable eight-week-old golden retriever,” said the Honors program student. “Seven years later I had trained what amounted to an entire litter of puppies and even became president and teen leader of the club. I love it.”
The club, sponsored by 4 H—a youth education program of Penn State Cooperative Extension—works through a non-profit national organization called The Seeing Eye whose mission is to enhance the independence, dignity and self confidence of blind people through the use of seeing eye dogs. Esbenshade claims the experience has helped her overcome a fear of public speaking and given her the confidence she needs to lead meetings, assist others, and pursue her goals more boldly.
“My focus right now is on my education, and learning as much as I can through my courses, internships and campus jobs,” she said. Last summer Esbenshade interned at the prominent Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, one of five facilities established by the U.S. Department of Energy for the study of nanotechnology-the control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Under the tutelage of Dr. James D. Hoefelmeyer, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of South Dakota, the team researched the synthesis of a photocatalyst that would hopefully use light from the sun to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen, producing an alternative form of energy.
Posted on November 11th, 2008