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WIU alumna Hannah Drake (photo by Peiyu Cai)
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WIU Alumna Pursuing Ph.D. Awarded Prestigious Research Study Opportunity

May 12, 2020

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MACOMB, IL – A Western Illinois University alumna has been awarded a United States Department of Energy, Office of Science Graduate Student Research (SCGSR) award to study at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory this summer and fall.

Hannah Drake, a 2016 WIU graduate with a bachelor's degree in forensic chemistry, is currently pursuing a PhD in chemistry at Texas A&M University, specializing in light responsive materials for gas storage and separations. She is in her fourth year of doctoral study, studying under Professor Hong-Cai Zhou, who is considered to be one of the world experts in Metal Organic Frameworks (MOF).

While at Western, Drake was the 2015 Lincoln Laureate, was an honorable mention award winner in the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program, and was a student in the Centennial Honors College.

While studying at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Drake will study under Clifford G. Shull Fellow Matthew Ryder. There were 62 students nationwide chosen for the prestigious national program, which can last up to 12 months. There are 14 national laboratories that participate in the SCGSR program.

"During the course of the program, I will be working at Oak Ridge National Lab on my thesis as a SCGSR student," said Drake. "My area of study for the award will be in the Neutron Science and the division I will be under within the DOE is called 'Basic Energy Sciences, Neutron Scattering Research and Instrumentation.' The title of my work will be 'Investigation of Photoresponsive Metal-Organic Frameworks for Light-Induced Switchable Adsorption.'"

While at WIU, Drake worked with Associate Professor Brian Bellott studying crystalline coordination chemistry compounds. She was also a founding member of both the Research Inspiring Student Excellence (RISE) initiative and the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) organization.

"I was highly involved in the chemistry department outreach activities and actively helped organize three of the four annual science demo shows co-hosted by chemistry and physics during my four years at WIU," she said. "I served as the women's freshman honors resident assistant for three years and worked closely with Dr. (Rick) Hardy in the Honors College and JB (John Biernbaum) in housing to cultivate leadership skills in my students. Additionally, I was a founding executive member of the WIU President's Institute and was directly involved with the 2016 WIU TEDx talks. For three years, I also served as the harpist to the WIU orchestra under Dr. (Richard) Hughey, and also served as student body representative to the CAS faculty council chaired by Dean Sue Martinelli-Fernandez for two years in the latter half of my degree."

For more than 50 years, the U.S. Department of Energy has supported the training of scientists, engineers and technology specialists to maintain the scientific and technical workforce.

For more information on Drake's Texas A&M research, visit For more information on the WU Department of Chemistry, visit

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