UWG Student Alisha Contractor Named Academic Recognition Day Scholar

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Out of the thousands of students who attend the University of West Georgia, one student, Alisha Contractor, stands out, and due to her extraordinary efforts, she has been named West Georgia’s Academic Recognition Day Scholar for 2012. Annually, each of the 31 teaching institutions of the University System of Georgia is asked to select one student for this honor, awarded by the Board of Regents and the Georgia Legislature.

Contractor is a Presidential scholarship recipient with a 4.0 grade point average. She has completed her degree in three years while garnering numerous awards and recognitions. She now has been accepted to the graduate school of the University of California at Berkeley, widely regarded as a top five program in the nation in chemistry, to pursue a research career.

Contractor took full advantage of the undergraduate-focused education at the University of West Georgia. She was recruited for undergraduate research at UWG’s Department of Chemistry where she performed an enormous quantity of high quality research. UWG faculty places the undergraduate research as a primary focus in the undergraduate education, and the university provides several financial support programs for undergraduate research students like Contractor. She was “hired” as an undergraduate research assistant through the UWG’s Student Research Assistant Program, which also funded Contractor’s presentations at one regional and two national conferences.

Contractor attributes her success at UWG to the faculty members who have supported her efforts. “I’m going to miss having the support system that I have had here,” she said. “Without them I wouldn’t have been able to do any of the things that I have done.”

“She is an outstanding chemistry student,” said Dr. Farooq Khan, the Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics and one of Contractor’s mentors. “What is unique about her is that at many of the regional and national conferences, she presented her work on chemistry as well as in the humanities, making her one of the most versatile students I have known in close to 19 years at West Georgia.”

Dr. Megumi Fujita, an Associate Professor of Chemistry and Research Supervisor for Contractor for over two years, describes her as the most dedicated and enthusiastic researcher she has ever mentored. “Alisha just loves to do research,” she said. “She spends hours in the lab making new molecules and acquiring data, and she generates high quality, publishable results. Plus, she can really think. She integrates her knowledge from chemistry and biology courses and applies them to comprehend the phenomena that she observes. I have no doubt that she will make an outstanding graduate student at Berkeley.”

“I learned how to interact with all the different types of professors we have at West Georgia,” Contractor said. “The university has such a diverse range of professors, not only in terms of what they teach but how they teach. That is something that I needed to be able to relate and to be relatable in the outside world.”

Contractor’s AP credits from high school allowed her to practically skip a year in the college curriculum. She maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point avergae while taking 21 credit hours of course work per semester; a typical course load is 15 credit hours. On top of this, she accomplished research work worth three senior thesis projects over two years. Contractor’s resume has a list of numerous awards and scholarships, including the Outstanding Junior of the Year Award and Outstanding Freshman of the Year Award from the Honors College, and five prestigious awards from the Department of Chemistry.

“Alisha exhibits tremendous potential of being a future leader in the rapidly advancing world of science discovery,” said Dr. Spencer Slattery, Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry at UWG. “Best of all is the wonderful mix of her amazingly quick thinking abilities along with her personable, non-pretentious, interactive character. This will be missed by many when she continues her journey at the University of California, Berkeley.”

Photo from L to R: Dr. Farooq Khan, Alisha Contractor, Dr. Megumi Fujita