‘Enthusiasm for learning’

Notre Dame alum to begin doctoral program after earning prestigious fellowship.
lisa1_815pxConfidence in front of crowds and a refined cognitive thought process were just a couple of the skills that 2012 Notre Dame alum Lisa Savagian gained from her high school experience. In fact, Savagian says, the things she learned at Notre Dame Prep have helped lead her toward a Ph.D. track in materials science and engineering, which she begins this fall at Georgia Institute of Technology.

“When I started college, I realized just how well my high school education equipped me with the critical-thinking skills, writing abilities, and technical acumen necessary for success in higher education,” said Savagian. “But perhaps more importantly, I had developed a lasting enthusiasm for learning that will be instrumental in any discipline.”

Those same skills also were likely instrumental in helping to get Savagian selected for the prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship program, which is awarded to students pursuing a research-based master’s or doctoral degree in science or engineering. Savagian said the fellowship is for three years, and pays a $34,000 annual stipend and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance each year, which will come in handy, she said, after four years as a college student. 

Now armed with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and a minor in mathematics from Hope College (May 2016), Savagian said her coursework at Georgia Tech will specialize in polymers, and her research will likely focus on developing thin film materials for optoelectronic applications. 

“Ultimately, after I finish up my Ph.D, I hope to obtain a position in R&D and pursue a life-long career working at critical scientific interfaces,” she said.

Savagian noted that her post-high school success would not have been possible had it not been for Notre Dame and a number of its teachers.

“At NDP, I thrived on the complexity and energy of my courses,” she said. “Chemistry with Mrs. Mulrenin, calculus with Mr. McCaskey, history with Mrs. Newby, Spanish with Sra. Tessada and literature with Mrs. Bembas were just some of my favorites. These teachers knew how to get a class excited to learn, even when covering the most difficult material.” 

Outside of the classroom at Notre Dame, Savagian competed on the varsity tennis team and in legislative debate tournaments. 

“I remember being mortified of public speaking when I first joined the debate team at NDP,” she said. “After a couple of years debating at local and national tournaments, I gained a lot of confidence and presence in front of the crowd. This skill has really come in handy now when I give scientific presentations.”

And scientific presentations have been aplenty for Savagian as her busy university career thus far has been marked by numerous and extraordinary activities in research.  

At Hope, she worked as a freshman in the nuclear chemistry lab with Dr. Graham Peaslee, who is a renowned professor of chemistry at the Holland, Mich., university. She also participated in the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program, which took place in 2014 in the United Kingdom, where she worked with Dr. Peter Skabara, a professor of pure and applied chemistry at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland. 

In 2015, Savagian was named a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Materials Science Engineering summer scholar, and worked with Professor Paula Hammond at the MIT Koch Center for Integrative Cancer Research. And most recently, she spent the fall 2015 semester conducting full-time research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a multiprogram science and technology national laboratory affiliated with the United States Department of Energy. 

Comments or questions? mkelly@ndpma.org.

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy

Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." The Marist Fathers and Brothers sponsor NDPMA's Catholic identity and manages its educational program. Notre Dame is accredited by the National Association of Independent Schools, the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.