Clanton native named to USA Today academic team

Published 8:21 am Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Clanton native Joy Driver Aldridge was one of 10 University of Alabama students named to USA Today’s 2010 All-USA College Academic Team.

The chemical and biological engineering graduate performed research as a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration intern at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii, where she tested an instrument, called a nephelometer, to measure aerosols more accurately.

She was asked to troubleshoot the instrument and perform several experiments under varying conditions. The nephelometer is now being incorporated into a patent application thanks to Aldridge’s work.

Needless to say, she was thrilled when she heard the news.

“I was so excited when I learned that I had received this award,” Aldridge said. “I am so honored to be selected along with so many intelligent and inspiring students from all over the country.”

Aldridge said the honor is especially rewarding because she put so much work into her collegiate studies.

“It’s a great feeling to look back and know that my efforts made an impact on someone else,” she said. “My college work experiences have taught me so much in the past five years, and I have had so many wonderful and unique experiences.

She humbly acknowledges that not everyone can say they had the opportunity to live in Hawaii and work at an atmospheric observatory on a volcano.

UA chemical engineering professor Alan Lane said Aldridge worked for two semesters in his laboratory on improving the performance and durability of fuel cells. Along with a team and a senior doctoral student, she helped develop gold-platinum alloy catalysts that could mitigate the problems related to harmful carbon support.

“She was involved in every aspect from synthesizing the catalyst to testing the electrochemical performance,” Lane said. “She made important contributions to the synthesis method and the catalyst stability does seem to improve. She is a very hardworking and talented young woman, and her work in my laboratory was only one of many accomplishments that resulted in the USA Today recognition. I’m very proud of Joy.”

Aldridge also worked at Southern Nuclear in the Environmental Affairs Department.

UA led the nation with the most students on the prestigious team and set a record with the most students a college has ever placed on the team during a single year.

Judges considered grades, leadership, activities and how students applied their knowledge to the field.

Born in Clanton, Aldridge graduated from Chilton County high school in 2005 and married Kyle Aldridge, a mechanical engineer and fellow UA alum, in May.

She currently works as a process engineer for Exxon-Mobil in Pensacola, Fla.

Her parents are Keith and Chrisie Driver. She has one younger sister, Jill Driver.