Carnegie Mellon University
May 19, 2021

Chemistry Senior Rachel Motz Receives Fugassi and Monteverde and Resnik Awards

By Ben Panko

Chemistry senior Rachel Motz is this year's recipient of the Dr. J. Paul Fugassi and Linda Monteverde Award and the Judith A. Resnik Award. 

Established in 1971 by Professor of Chemistry J. Paul Fugassi to honor his aunt Linda E. Monteverde, the Fugassi and Monteverde Award recognizes a graduating female senior from the Mellon College of Science with the greatest academic achievement and professional promise. The award provides a $1,000 scholarship. 

The Judith A. Resnik Award was created in 1990 in memory of Carnegie Mellon University alumna Judith A. Resnik, who served as a NASA astronaut and died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. It is given each year to an exceptional senior woman graduating with an undergraduate technical course of study and planning to pursue graduate or professional training in a technical field. The award comes with $1,000. 

"Rachel is the perfect embodiment of a Carnegie Mellon University student," Karen Stump, teaching professor and director of undergraduate studies & laboratories for the Department of Chemistry, wrote in nominating Motz for the awards. "Like the institution itself, her talents and interests span the arts and sciences. She is humbly ambitious and strives for excellence in all she does." 

In the lab of Professor of Chemistry Stefan Bernhard, Motz has been focused on the overarching goal of producing hydrogen from water using light. To search for a cheaper and more earth-abundant cobalt catalyst for this process, Motz led a project that used a high-throughput, combinatorial process to study 646 possible catalysts for their photocatalytic water reduction ability. Motz published her work in the journal Inorganic Chemistry as first author, a rare feat for an undergraduate student. 

In addition to her impressive work in the lab and the classroom, Motz kept a full schedule of extracurricular activities at Carnegie Mellon, from playing in the Tartan Wind Ensemble and the university marching band, to singing in the student a capella group Joyful Noise, to even being a buggy driver. As the COVID-19 pandemic affected her final semesters at Carnegie Mellon, Motz added even more to her plate through volunteering with the CMU Pantry to provide food to students and being a teaching assistant for an introductory chemistry course.  

"I kept myself pretty busy in college doing all the things I love, between band, buggy, a cappella, dance and, of course, chemistry," Motz said in reflecting on her time at Carnegie Mellon. "It's really gratifying for all my hard work to be acknowledged at the end of four years, and I'm honored to be chosen among my many high-achieving peers."