Jill Ferguson (Engr ’17) is exactly the kind of high-potential undergraduate that Chip (Engr ’92) and Belinda Blankenship had in mind when they created a scholarship for promising engineering students.

Their generosity enables materials science and engineering undergraduates to fund laboratory research and study-abroad research as well as internships and travel to professional meetings.

The Belinda and Chip Blankenship Scholarship is helping Ferguson prepare for graduate school and a career at the intersection of renewable energy and public policy. She spent this summer at MIT’s Photovoltaic Research Laboratory, engaged in an internship that allowed her to pursue a long-term interest in increasing the efficiency and affordability of solar cells—potentially enabling this form of renewable energy to reach cost parity with fossil fuels.

The scholarship also allowed her to attend conferences, train on cutting-edge equipment, and learn new research techniques. Ferguson plans to use the scholarship to bolster her fourth-year Capstone project and prepare for graduate school through visits to campuses nationwide and attendance at national materials sciences conferences.

“The Blankenship Scholarship is providing me with a way to invest in my own human capital,” she said. “It will help me make the best possible transition to graduate school.”

“From the time she set foot on Grounds, Ferguson has been engaged not only in the classroom, but also in extracurricular activities related to science and engineering research,” said Robert Kelly, AT&T Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and co-director of the Center for Electrochemical Science and Engineering. “Her enthusiasm is contagious. She epitomizes what the Blankenship Undergraduate Scholarship seeks—superb academic achievement and a deep passion for materials research.”

In addition to becoming this year’s Blankenship Scholar, Ferguson was one of 54 students chosen from among 775 candidates nationwide for a prestigious Truman Scholarship, created by Congress in 1975 in memory of President Harry S. Truman.

blankenship2-blueAs president and chief executive officer of GE Appliances & Lighting and a member of the National Academy of Engineering, Chip Blankenship understands the vital importance of graduate education in sustaining the United States’ global competitiveness. “If we are to continue to grow and prosper, it’s absolutely essential that our country have talented people with the skills and knowledge to push technology forward,” he said. Blankenship also serves on the School of Engineering and Applied Science’s board of trustees.