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2012 Scholars

Sophia Ewens

Sophia Ewens


Classification: Sophomore
Graduation Year: 2016
College: College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Honors College
Major: Biochemistry
High School: River Falls High School
Hometown: River Falls, Wisconsin

About Me

This is my second year in Houston, Texas, and it has become the fourth place in the world that has acquired a special place in my heart.  In California, I took my first breath of air; River Falls, Wisconsin was the hometown in which I was raised; and Treuchtlingen, Germany is my home-away-from-home that I visit extensively every summer to keep in touch with the family my mother ventured from when she emmigrated to the United States.  My citizenship is shared between these two countries, as is my heart; and now Houston, Texas is the ground on which I become an independent, educated adult.  I was drawn to Houston not only by this school’s blossoming reputation and generous financial incentives, but also purely out of my insatiable desire to explore and experience whatever is over the horizon. I love to keep both my mind and body active which is why, alongside a 3.97 GPA that I strive to maintain, I love to windsurf, snowboard, longboard, travel, dance, and rock out on the piano. I also truly believe in the potential for an individual to make an immense, positive impact in this world, and I want to be one of those people.  Though I have yet to discover exactly how I will accomplish this daunting feat, I have started my journey by studying biochemistry because of my unending desire to know why things work the way they do, especially in regards to living things and planet earth.   Though I am still using the plethora of opportunities at this university to intimately understand where my passions lie, I am almost certain I will “end up” in the field of research… if there is ever going to be a final destination where I “end up”.  More specifically, I would love to fall into a field in environmental protection, reflecting my awe with the natural world. 

Oh, and one other immensely important detail I cannot fail to mention is that I am known for my laugh.  I love to laugh. 

Campus and Community Involvement

Travelling alone across the country from a small town in Wisconsin to one of the largest, most diverse cities in the United States was definitely daunting, but also exciting.  Coming to a place where I knew only a few names but no faces quickly showed me the value of “putting yourself out there” and getting involved.  Though my first semester in college was dedicated to just getting oriented, I soon jumped into the campus life.  I began with individual events:  I volunteered for the Mars Rover Celebration on campus to excite blossoming kid-scientists; I took part in 5k’s and attended various campus-run events; then I volunteered for the recruitment office to convince students from my home-town to follow me to Houston; later I became a writing tutor the Human Situation Course at the Honors College and was elected as a committee member of the Human Situation Best Lecture Board.  I eventually played piano for a campus band called Chasing Lights (we performed at Coffee House) and I also recently used that skill to accompany the singer, Samira Music.  I also am part of the Fellowship of Tier One Scholars.  This year, when I became more certain of my career path, I joined the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Awards and Honors

I was accepted to the University of Houston as a Valedictorian and proudly became a National Merit Finalist and a National Merit Corporate Scholar as well as a Wisconsin Academic Scholar.  Upon my acceptance, the University of Houston awarded me with the Tier One and National Merit full ride scholarships as well as an Academic Excellence Scholarship (Go Coogs!)  I am a member of the campus Honors College and was proud to accept the Outstanding First Year Student Award for 2012 at the Honors Convocation.  Finally, I have been on the Dean’s List every semester since my enrollment.  Outside of academia, I am the owner of two Distinction Awards and one Merit Award from the London College of Music Examinations for piano performance and music theory.  I am excited to see what I may accomplish in this upcoming year!

Study Abroad

Since my mom immigrated to the United States from Germany, I have been brought up in a household teeming with German culture.  I visit my family and friends in Germany for one month every summer, and speak fluent German because of all this.  I am in love with Europe and would thoroughly enjoy studying abroad anywhere in Western Europe.  However, my passion for exploration and my desire to conduct research make me excited and willing to travel anywhere in the world. I am currently attempting to apply for internships abroad this summer, though the locations aren’t yet set.  Who knows where I’ll end up!


Ever since I discovered how good the research program at the University of Houston is, I had been itching to get a taste! The University was very helpful it setting me up with an opportunity, and because of it I currently am working in Dr. Lee’s chemical laboratory, under the mentorship of Chien-Hung(Henry) Li, on the synthesis and analysis of functionalized gold-silver nanoshells.  Let me describe what we do: The first focus of our work is the inorganic synthesis of gold-silver nanoshells.  When introduced to near IR light, an optimal wavelength for medicinal applications, the gold-silver nanoshells heat, allowing for the controlled release of therapeutics that are bound to organic surfactants which will, in turn, be bound to the nanoshells.  These organic surfactants are the focus of the second, organic, portion of Henry’s research which involves the synthesis of thiol-based surfactants as well as the synthesis of a model drug.  This nano-research has large potential in the realm of pharmaceuticals and biomedicine for isolated photo-thermal drug administration by reducing the invasiveness and improving the accuracy with which therapeutics are given to patients.  It’s really, truly fascinating.

Future Endeavors

I do not have my future entirely mapped out; because I know life in college will take me down a windy path and may lead me in a direction that is completely different from what I envision now. With this flexible outlook, I plan to pursue a Masters degree or PhD in Biochemistry with an emphasis on environmental protection. I am also heavily considering getting this degree abroad, possibly in Germany … but we shall see! I will grab any opportunity that comes my way to discover more about the fields of scientific discovery.  I just can’t wait to find out where life takes me!