Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Student chosen for UNCF/Merck Fellowship


Aeriel Murphy, a senior majoring in metallurgical and materials engineering, has become the first UA student to be a part of the United Negro College Fund-Merck Foundation Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship Program.

Murphy, a native of Wetumpka, Ala., is one of 15 students chosen for the program, which provides students with up to $30,000 for tuition and a summer research internship at a Merck facility.

“It feels great,” Murphy said. “A lot of people applied, a lot of people wanted to get it. I’m really blessed to get this opportunity since Merck is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. The research that they do is invaluable to me especially since I want to go to graduate school.”

Murphy is doing her internship in Rahway, N.J., where she is studying the biology side of engineering. She said her research, which is in the pharmaceutical science group, includes researching drugs that are insoluble and how to improve solubility of insoluble drugs through the method of creating nanoparticles of the drugs.

Along with being mentored by a Merck senior research chemist, networking and meeting people from various places has been another positive element from being a UNCF-Merck Fellow. There are fellows from schools such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as well as professors that have been in the field for years.

Murphy is involved in numerous organizations on the Capstone. In addition to working in the UA magnetic suspension melting lab doing research on the electromagnetic processing of metals and previously being a co-op engineer at Southern Company in Birmingham, she is a McNair Scholar, and a part of Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, Golden Key International Honor Society, Cardinal Key Honor Society, Emerging Scholars and the Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Student Advantage chapter.

“Aeriel’s brilliant,” said Keshia Wilson, UA graduate assistant and Murphy’s McNair mentor. “She’s a very well-rounded girl – she’s smart, she’s funny. She’s just the package of a person. She’s a very intellectual person – if she doesn’t know, she’s going to go figure it out and if she hasn’t figured it out she’s going to keep going until she figures it out. She’s a strong, driven, hard-working person. I commend her, especially in the field of engineering. I’m proud of her.”

Earlier this year, Murphy was awarded the John C. Wilkins Excellence Award for her work in metallurgical and materials engineering. She is an exceptional student inside and outside of class according to faculty and staff members.

“Aeriel – I like to refer to as a very determined, very intelligent and highly motivated student,” said Viola Acoff, professor and head of metallurgical and materials engineering. “I like to refer to her as the epitome of an outstanding engineering student because not only does she try to understand what’s going on in her actual course and she does exceptional well with that. She also goes the extra step to learn whatever she can about her field outside of the classroom.”

After earning her bachelor’s degree, Murphy said she plans to get her masters on the way to an ultimate goal of obtaining her doctorate degree.

“I really want to get a Ph.D. in material engineering whether it be more towards bio-engineering or more towards metallurgical,” Murphy said.

“I think nothing will stop Aeriel from achieving her goals,” Acoff said. “She has her plan set and I am certain that she will obtain her goal and obtain a Ph.D. in material science with emphasis on bio materials and bio engineering.”



About the UNCF-Merck Science Initiative


The UNCF-Merck Science Initiative was established in July of 1995 by Merck & Co., Inc. – a premiere pharmaceutical products and services company with the purpose to increase the number of African American students pursuing careers in the field of scientific research. The funding for the program is used to sponsor those that are undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral.

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