Chemical engineering student wins scholarship from solar panel manufacturer

A University of Mississippi engineering student from Natchez is the recipient of a scholarship from a California-based solar technology firm.

Joanna David, a junior majoring in chemical engineering with an emphasis in environmental engineering, applied for the Twin Creeks Technologies scholarship and was awarded a full year's tuition this May. Recently, the firm completed the initial phase of its new solar panel production facility in Senatobia, Miss.

"In receiving the scholarship, I was invited to attend the Twin Creeks ribbon-cutting ceremony," David said. "Touring the facility allowed me to see firsthand how innovative and incredible this company is, and it made me feel extremely honored to be recognized by them."

As a student in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, David said the scholarship has been a blessing.

"I am currently working on my honors college thesis under the direction of Dr. Cristiane Surbeck, and we are working to improve methods used to disinfect water through exposure to sunlight," David said. "Through my research, I have really been able to see the 'big picture.' My decision to come to Ole Miss and pursue a chemical engineering degree now makes perfect sense, and I have gained a greater awareness of the plans God has for each one of us."

The Twin Creeks Technologies Southeast scholarship program, which began this year, is designed to assist a college student who demonstrates superior academic ability, achievement and leadership capabilities in engineering, mathematics, material science or any relevant subject matter.

David, the daughter of Jerry and Joan David, was required to write a 500-word paper on the relevance and impact of alternative energy and how her contribution in this area can make a difference.

"My newfound understanding of natural resources has led me to analyze our country's consumption of these resources, as well as the impact our daily usage has on creation and the environment," she wrote. "My awareness of these effects has motivated me to continue pursuing a degree in chemical engineering with an emphasis in environmental engineering in anticipation of using my knowledge to educate the general public [on] these issues."

The School of Engineering is excited about the partnership with Twin Creeks Technologies, said Scott Kilpatrick, assistant to the dean. He said one Ole Miss engineering graduate already is on staff at Twin Creeks, and he hopes to continue to expand those opportunities.

"We are very thankful for the new Twin Creeks Technologies scholarship program," Kilpatrick said. "Considering our current economic environment, it is certainly crucial that as a nation we encourage more outstanding students to pursue engineering careers. Twin Creeks Technologies is meeting that challenge by providing scholarship funds, which will support the academic needs of some of Mississippi's most talented future engineers."

Twin Creeks Technologies was founded in 2008. Headquartered in San Jose, Calif., the venture-backed solar technology company has a portfolio of more than 60 patent applications and operates engineering and manufacturing locations in San Jose and Danvers, Mass.

The Senatobia plant, started in April 2010, will create 500 jobs, in two phases over a five-year period, and represents a corporate investment of $175 million. The opening of the factory marked the successful entry of the high-growth renewable energy business into northern Mississippi, producing American-made solar panels only 12 months after breaking ground.