Milligan To Do Research At Los Alamos National Lab -- Her Degrees Are In Chemistry, Classical Studies

BLACKSBURG, Va., May 16, 2003 – Ashley Milligan, a junior chemistry major at Virginia Tech, will spend the summer at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico under a Glenn T. Seaborg Research Fellowship.

The Seaborg Institute where she will work is named for the chemist responsible for the most significant change in the periodic table since Mendelev. He formulated the "actinide concept" of heavy element electronic structure, which predicted that the actinides--including the first 11 trans-uranium elements--would form a transition series analogous to the rare-earth series of lanthanide elements.

Milligan, a Greenville, S.C., native, is one of 12 outstanding junior and senior undergraduate and graduate students who will participate in Summer Research Fellowships at Los Alamos National Laboratory, sponsored by the Department of Energy and the G. T. Seaborg Institute for Transactinium Science. The research fellowships were granted in the areas of f-element (radioactive) chemistry, nuclear and radiochemistry, spectroscopy, surface science, high-explosives chemistry, and homeland security. The students will join Los Alamos scientists in independent research projects as well as be involved in related courses accredited by the University of New Mexico.

Milligan will take a course in high explosives and will work with actinides and lanthanides metals, which are f-block elements that cannot be studied most other places because of their radioactivity and expense. "It's a different kind of chemistry, a different project, and a different kind of lab," Milligan said. "I have never worked outside an academic lab, so working for a national lab will be really different."

For two years, Milligan has worked in the Virginia Tech lab of Paul Deck doing organic-metallic chemistry with d-block (non-radioactive) elements. Complexes of these metals are catalysts for ethylene polymerization, or the industrial production of plastics.

Milligan is a graduate of the South Carolina Governor's School for Science and Mathematics. She worked in x-ray crystallography at Clemson University. "I liked research, so I wanted to do that when I came here."

She enrolled at Virginia Tech with the idea of getting a degree in chemistry because she had been good at it in high school. "I really like it; I get excited about it," she said. She also liked her undergraduate research work with Deck.

However, she also took the first class toward fulfilling the core requirements for a degree, Greek and Roman Mythology, taught by Terry Papillon. "I think it's the best class I have ever had," she said. So she kept taking courses in classical studies and found the faculty to be "amazing." "Classical studies gave me variety, and I enjoyed the courses," she said. So she decided to get two degrees, one in chemistry and one in classical studies. The latter, she said, is "sort of an elective with a degree."

Milligan is the daughter of Robert and Deneice Milligan of Greenville, S.C.