For Aleria Story, a high-achieving master's student in MSU's Department of Sustainable Bioproducts, success is a combination of individual passion, drive and a strong support system.
The Tupelo native's passion for engineering blossomed through her high school STEM program, which introduced her to diverse engineering fields and opportunities.
"I chose Mississippi State because of its outstanding engineering program and lucrative scholarships that not only covered my college expenses but allowed me to graduate debt-free, empowering me to pursue my passions."
From her initial visit, Story discovered she had an entire support network from the moment she stepped onto campus.
"I felt like this was home and that the MSU community was like family," she said.
Studying chemical engineering as an undergrad, Story learned about working with biofuels and biodegradable resources from Professor Todd French. She was immediately intrigued by the subject and decided to pursue a master's degree in sustainable bioproducts.
Story currently is conducting research under her advisor, Assistant Professor Yunsang Kim. They are exploring the use of titanium decorated biochar to extract the bacterium E.coli from contaminated water.
"When we have flooding situations that contaminate municipal drinking water, the water in people's homes can become contaminated with high concentrations of bacteria. This bioproduct is a potential solution to stop the bacteria at the source before it reaches your home," Story said.
Her master's level work—and the recognition she has received for it—serves as a strong foundation for her future doctoral studies. The department awarded Story with the Outstanding Graduate Student Award, Master's Level, for her research quality and for one of the highest GPAs in the program. She also was honored with a departmental award for presenting a poster showcasing her research.
Story reflected on how she has been able to achieve a consistent level of success.
"I think you have to work hard and focus on your goals, but having the support of my family and my professors is equally important," she said. "I have to be determined and motivated to do the work, but along the way, my family gives me emotional support, and my professors push me academically."
Story also benefits from her involvement with the university's intramural sports program, which is open to all students.
"School can be stressful, and we all need to find a way to relieve that stress," she said. "For me, intramural sports—volleyball and rugby—;allow me to take a moment away from my studies and work that stress out on the field. I'm grateful that MSU gives students so many opportunities, both inside and out of the classroom."