FVSU Alumni Spotlight: Betsy Ampofo

January 13, 2014 –Fort Valley State University prepares students to become experienced scientists, skilled researchers and accomplished scholars whose goal in life is to make a difference in the world. This month, the university is featuring an alum whose mission is to bring all nations of the world together to work for peace, justice, and the well-being of all people.

Betsy Ampofo, Class of 2007, is originally from Accra, the capitol city of Ghana, a country located on the Western Coast of the African continent. Her hometown is a sprawling, coastal metropolis with a population exceeding 2.27 million people. When Ampofo started her sophomore year in high school, she left Ghana to start a new life in the Peach State. Once she arrived in Middle Georgia, Ampofo enrolled in Macon’s Central High School.

“It was a little difficult leaving home and coming to this country,” said Ampofo. “The hardest part was not being able to see my family when I wanted to. But, like any new place, you’ll just have to make some adjustments and make new friends.”

In Georgia, the young woman continued studying hard. Her favorite subjects were French, science and business. In her high school senior year, the aspiring scientist began searching for colleges.

Her cousin, an FVSU graduate, told her about the great science-trek programs available at the college, such as the Summer Research Apprenticeship Program, an enrichment internship sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The program provides students with a solid academic foundation in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.

Ampofo submitted an application to attend FVSU and the SRAP internship, and was accepted to both. During a productive summer, the young woman was paired with experienced researchers who served as her mentors.

“It was a very good experience,” said Ampofo. “I received hands-on experience with some of the scientific equipment in the lab, and a feel of what it was like to be in college before my freshman year in school. I made some really good connections with Dr. Sarwan Dhir, director of SRAP, his wife, Seema Dhir, and Dr. Dwayne Daniels, chemistry professor and director of the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation program in the sciences.”

Ampofo majored in plant science biotechnology.

She completed several internships while matriculating at FVSU. At the University of Minnesota, Ampofo and a team of scientists studied phytoremediation, a process that uses plants to decrease pollutants in soil, air and water. The UM project focused on finding plants that could clean atrazine, an herbicide that commercial farms use to protect growing crops. The FVSU scholar also finished a second internship at Michigan State University. There, Ampofo screened mutant plants that were chlorophyll-deficient for a new database that was being created at the school.

At FVSU, Ampofo also made close connections with her fellow students.

“I made lifelong friendships,” she said. “They encouraged me to succeed. We all had similar goals, and the academic environment at FVSU was good. I was also close to home, and had the support of my family. The balance, the education and social activities at FVSU give you a well-rounded education.”

Ampofo graduated in May 2007. The 29-year-old student is now enrolled at Cornell University, where she is earning a doctorate degree in the university’s plant cell and molecular biology program in Ithaca, N.Y.

“Fort Valley State was a great place to be, because I made really good connections,” said Ampofo. “The professors were good and helpful, and I received plenty of hands-on experience. There are several career outlets, and programs that will help you get to where you need to be.”

After she earns her doctorate, Ampofo wants to work with the United Nations or World Health Organization to help developing countries with agriculture.



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