Amanda Speller, 2015 School of Nursing BSN graduate, has been accepted to Harvard University's Research Scholar Initiative.
Amanda Speller, 2015 School of Nursing BSN graduate, has been accepted to Harvard University's Research Scholar Initiative.

Louisville native Amanda Speller will hone her research path at one of the world’s most prestigious universities.

Speller, a 2015 BSN graduate from the University of Louisville School of Nursing, has been accepted to Harvard University’s Research Scholar Initiative, a post-baccalaureate program that aims to increase the number of underrepresented minorities in doctoral programs. Through mentored research and training, the program strengthens a scholar’s competitiveness when applying to top graduate schools.

Speller, 24, is the first UofL graduate accepted to the program, which annually admits no more than six applicants from across the country.

She will work as a research assistant with a Harvard faculty member, participate in professional development seminars and have access to undergraduate and graduate coursework.

Speller, who works as a research nurse at the UofL Clinical Trials Unit, will study health policy and plans to research ways to make hospital operations more economically efficient.

“Amanda was selected based on her long-term goals, her interests in public health research, and the overall strength of her application, including her passion for research,” said Sheila Thomas, PhD, associate dean of academic programs and diversity at Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

In July, Speller will begin the program, which lasts one year with an option for a second year. She will receive a $33,000 annual stipend and tuition for up to two classes per semester.

“This is a very prestigious program and an honor for us to have a graduate accepted into it,” said Lynne Hall, DrPH, RN, UofL School of Nursing associate dean for research. “Amanda was very active in research as an undergraduate student and published and presented.”

The School of Nursing served a key role in shaping Speller’s research interests, allowing her to work as a research assistant before she was officially accepted to the upper division of the program.

She worked with Carlee Lehna, PhD, APRN-BC, School of Nursing associate professor, on two Federal Emergency Management Agency-funded grants focusing on home fire safety for parents of newborns, including those with special needs, and older adults.

A paper that Speller co-authored with Lehna and other faculty members won the 2015 American Burn Association’s Lindberg Award for the best scientific paper submitted by a non-physician.

“My professors were willing to let me be involved in every part of the research process,” Speller said. “This gave me a very clear view of the joys and frustrations of being a nurse researcher. It is also very uplifting to have a group of highly successful people believe in you.”