Scholarship Recipient Spotlight

Teresa Blessinger Memorial Scholarship Recipient, Tien-Lu Huang, Embodies the Concept of Paying it Forward.

From volunteering in the fast paced environment at the University of Louisville Hospital Emergency Department to the methodical and precise research of tracking turtles in an urban forest, junior Tien-Lu Huang is making the most of college life at IU Southeast.

petri dish with ecoli

Culture plate with E. Coli.

Scholarships Open the Door to Opportunities

Huang, from Jeffersonville, Ind., is a chemistry and biology major in the Honors Program with his sights set on medical school. He was named a Paul Ogle Scholar as an incoming freshman and recently was awarded the Teresa Blessinger Memorial Scholarship for outstanding students in the IU Southeast School of Natural Sciences. These scholarships have allowed Huang to explore all the options and opportunities that are available at IU Southeast.

“I have been able to experience college to the fullest because I don’t have to worry about the financial aspect of school due to these scholarships,” said Huang. “This was a big sigh of relief not only for myself, but also my parents. I am able to live on campus and really participate in a lot more clubs and activities.”

Huang is Vice President of the IU Southeast Pre-Med Society, a senator on the Student Government Association, a mentor at the Center for Mentoring, a volunteer at the University of Louisville Hospital Emergency Department and conducts turtle tracking research with Dr. Omar Attum, associate professor of biology at IU Southeast.

In addition, Huang works doing microbiology laboratory preparation with Dr. David Treves, professor of biology and biology program coordinator at IU Southeast. He describes his small lab room where he prepares media, grows bacterial cultures and sets up lab classes as being “snuggled in a warm blanket of learning.”

Spend even a small amount of time with Huang, and you can’t help but notice his energy, enthusiasm and positive attitude. He has a deep aptitude for helping and caring for people. He has shown a willingness to explore many career options in the natural sciences but is drawn to medicine.

Life in the Fast Lane…

Huang noted that he had recently shadowed a family medicine doctor and found that “it was a little too slow paced.” Volunteering at the emergency department is more his speed.

As a volunteer, Huang aids the nurses by keeping linens and towels stocked, bringing blankets to patient rooms and generally helping out in any capacity he can. He also provides assistance to the visitors and loved ones of patients.

“I found that I quite liked the fast pace and unpredictable nature of the emergency room,” said Huang. “I do really enjoy helping others. I try to keep a diary of all the things that have impacted me and from my volunteer experiences at the hospital, I have learned that it is always important to be mindful about what people are saying and what they mean with their words. It’s just the seriousness of the situation.”

Box turtle research trip Louisville Nature Center

Box turtle research project trip to Louisville Nature Center led by Dr. Omar Attum

Omar Attum box turtle research project

IU Southeast biology students track the movements of Box turtles at the Louisville Nature Center.

box turtle

Box turtle

…and The Slow Lane

When Huang came to IU Southeast he was interested in undergraduate research. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there were limited opportunities available but that didn’t dampen his eagerness to jump right in.

“I picked turtle tracking on a whim but I have really enjoyed it so far,” said Huang. “This opportunity really expanded my horizons and opened me up to the field of ecology. Before I didn’t have much interest in turtles but now because of this research, I think they’re fabulous!”

Huang estimates that he has hiked the forest at the Louisville Nature Center hundreds of times in order to track and plot the movement of box turtles in response to invasive plant species entering the urban forest. The turtles are equipped with GPS tags and their movements are monitored.

“I have been very thorough with the research, “said Huang. “Sometimes the turtles are dug in under the mud and are camouflaged very well, so you have to be very detail orientated to spot them. There have also been so many times that fallen trees have gotten in my way. I think part of my reason for really liking the field research is that nature is very unpredictable as well – I seem to choose that over always knowing how something will turn out.”

Paying it Forward

In 2021, Mark Holloway established the Teresa Blessinger Memorial Scholarship for IU Southeast School of Natural Sciences students in honor of his late wife and IU Southeast alumna Teresa Blessinger.

One of Holloway’s goals for the scholarship fund was to help alleviate financial burdens on students to help them become the next generation of doctors and medical professionals.

Huang is the first recipient of the Teresa Blessinger Memorial Scholarship and is a shining example of how a single donor can have such a broad impact on the lives of students.

“I am so grateful,” said Huang. “When I have the ability, I would love to pay forward the financial aid and opportunities that have been granted to me. When you can apply yourself greater to school and organizations without the worry of how to pay for it, I think that opens up your perspective and allows you to flourish. From my experiences, I know that the faculty and staff at IU Southeast are wonderfully kind and supportive of the students. Scholarships like this provide an opportunity for students, who are attaining an education to better themselves, to also give back to the community. This helps build a great community, not just for IU Southeast, but also for the larger community and the state of Indiana."

Community Partnership: Caesars Foundation Grant