May 28, 2021 | By: Whitney Hale

A University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment recently recieved a 2021 Fulbright scholarship. Clarissa Somers is a 2021 food science and Lewis Honor College graduate. 

Somers, daughter of MeLinda and Jeff White, of Bolivia, North Carolina, will use her Fulbright toward a master’s degree in food microbiology at University College Cork in Ireland.

The learning experience at UCC will allow Somers to advance her previous studies on human milk at North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics and UK, while preparing her for future research endeavors in the field. “Human milk is an amazingly complex food designed to fit an infant’s specific needs that adapts with the child as it grows. Its prebiotic and probiotic components and their impact on the infant microbiome particularly interest me.”

Somers credits Pat Whitlow, director of the Office of Nationally Competitive Awards, and Department of Animal and Food Sciences faculty Melissa MorganRachel Schendel and William Boatright, in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, for encouraging her to pursue graduate school and the Fulbright.

Upon completion of her Fulbright and her master’s degree, Somers plans to earn her doctoral degree abroad and pursue an international career in human milk research. Her ultimate goal is to make new discoveries, advocate for positive change and teach others what she has learned in the process.

“My experience teaching general chemistry at UK has reinforced my desire to continue teaching throughout my career,” Somers explained. “As a caregiver and longtime Girl Scout, I thrive when working in the service of others. These experiences have taught me that no matter where my career leads me, my true passion lies in teaching and helping others. To me, my research is meaningless if I cannot share its benefits with others.”

Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the Fulbright Program has given more than 400,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in government, science, the arts, business, philanthropy, education, and athletics and won such prestigious honors as the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, MacArthur Foundation Award, and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is administered by the Institute of International Education. For further information about the Fulbright Program, visit the website

UK students and recent graduates who are U.S. citizens may apply for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program scholarships through the UK’s Office of Nationally Competitive Awards. The office assists current UK undergraduate and graduate students and recent alumni in applying for external scholarships and fellowships funded by sources (such as a nongovernment foundation or government agency) outside the university. These awards honor exceptional students across the nation. Students who are interested in these opportunities are encouraged to begin work with the office, housed in the Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence, well in advance of the scholarship deadline. Staff is available for appointments to discuss opportunities for the 2021-2022 academic year and beyond.

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