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The University of Alabama

University of Alabama Student Named Truman Scholar

Ryan Flamerich

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Ryan Flamerich, a junior at The University of Alabama, is a 2012 Truman Scholar, the first student from the UA College of Engineering selected for the prestigious scholarship created by Congress to help future leaders in public service.

With a double major in chemical engineering and political science, Flamerich is one of 54 Scholars selected from among 587 candidates nominated by 292 colleges and universities. Truman Scholars are chosen based on their academic and leadership accomplishments and their likelihood of becoming public service leaders.

“The Truman Scholarship is based on a passion for public service. In a very real sense, engineering is service,” said Dr. Charles L. Karr, dean of UA’s College of Engineering. “Many of the problems the world faces today, from providing adequate fresh water to supplying clean sources of renewable energy, are public service challenges that require engineering solutions.

“I’m very pleased University of Alabama engineering students – who I believe are among the best in the nation – recognize their responsibility to use the engineering skills they are developing in service of humanity. Mr. Flamerich certainly personifies this commitment. We are very proud of him.”

The Truman Scholarship provides up to $30,000 for graduate studies. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling and special internship opportunities within the federal government. The foundation’s Website is

A student in the Computer Based Honors Program in the Honors College, Flamerich came to UA to study chemical engineering and envisioned a career as an engineer. He said the road to an interest in a career in public service away from professional engineering came from his role as a senator in the UA Student Government Association, volunteer work, his time as a Blackburn Fellow on campus, and his classes in political science, which he picked up as a second major his sophomore year to learn about public policy from a different perspective.

Flamerich was named speaker of the SGA Senate his junior year. As the same time, he was also immersed in The Blackburn Institute, part of the UA Division of Student Affairs recognized as one of the most distinctive and effective leadership programs in the country. The purpose of the institute is to create a network of student leaders, the Blackburn Fellows, who have a clear understanding of the issues facing Alabama and the nation.

Throughout college Flamerich volunteered with several organizations including the READ Alabama initiative through the Honors College that works to improve reading skills in the state’s Black Belt, a mostly rural and impoverished region.

He volunteered with the Boys & Girls Club, tutoring students after school, and the American Red Cross, raising money for Haitian earthquake victims. Politically, he was a social media coordinator for state level political campaigns during the summer of 2010 and plans to intern this summer with the Alabama Democratic Party.

He’s worked with other UA student leaders on a proposal to ban smoking on campus, and he has worked with state leaders to push for a statewide ban on smoking at government buildings.

But the foundation of his experience at the Capstone is chemical engineering, and Flamerich credits a course called reactor design, taught by Dr. Tonya M. Klein, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, for shaping his thought process.

“Engineering is much more than curriculum based on application of science,” Flamerich said. “It’s really a mindset – a way of thinking about things. Engineers look at solving problems in the most efficient way.”

He has worked in the computational chemistry lab of Dr. David Dixon, the Robert Ramsay Chair in Chemistry, as part of his Computer Based Honors Program performing research funded by the United States Department of Energy.

Dixon said Flamerich does computer modeling studying thorium oxide nanoclusters. Thorium is being studied internationally as a replacement for uranium in nuclear power that could enhance security and lead to less radioactive waste.

For his work, Flamerich was a co-author on a paper published in October in The Journal of Physical Chemistry, with additional publications planned. He will receive a Randall Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award later this month for his research efforts.

“Ryan is an excellent young scientist and engineer who has made real research contributions,” Dixon said. “That’s going to help him in whatever he chooses to do.”

A native of Miami, Fla., Flamerich graduated from Chelsea High School outside Birmingham. He is the son of Juan and Nancy Flamerich of Chelsea.

Flamerich expects to graduate from UA in 2013, and he plans to attend law school and, possibly, pursue a master’s degree in public policy. Truman Scholars are encouraged to spend at least two years in a public service job after graduate school. He is still mulling over possible career paths, but said he could focus on environmental, patent or civil rights advocacy law.

“The Truman Scholarship has helped me focus,” he said. “It’s really giving me an opportunity to go into things I wouldn’t have confidence to do before.”

The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 as a federal memorial to President Harry S. Truman, and its activities are supported by a special trust fund in the U.S. Treasury.

In 2007, Dr. Madeleine Albright, the president of the Truman Foundation, named UA a Harry Truman Foundation Honor Institution for its success in winning Truman Scholarships and fostering outstanding public servants. Since the first awards in 1977, UA has had 13 students selected as Truman Scholars.

“Our good record indicates the seriousness with which UA encourages its students to compete for the top awards in national arenas,” said Dr. Robert Halli, founding dean emeritus of the Honors College and current coordinator for UA Truman Scholarship nominations.

In 1837, The University of Alabama became one of the first five universities in the nation to offer engineering classes. Today, UA’s fully accredited College of Engineering has more than 3,300 students and more than 100 faculty. In the last eight years, students in the College have been named USA Today All-USA College Academic Team members, Goldwater, Hollings, Portz and Truman scholars.

The recruiting, educating and promoting of the best and brightest students is the mission of the Honors College, whose creation in September 2003 affirms The University of Alabama’s commitment to empower students to achieve the very top of their potential, and then be rewarded for that achievement.

The department of political science is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All-American Teams.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.