Seniors highlighted for college achievements

Digital Media Murray State

Material Science major George Timmermann and Biology major Jess Stein were recognized as the 2023 Outstanding Seniors at the April 26 Senior. (Photo courtesy of

Dionte Berry, Editor-in-Chief

Biology major Jess Stein and material science and polymer chemistry major George Timmermann were named as the 2023 Outstanding Seniors, one of the most prestigious graduation recognitions.

The Outstanding Senior award recognizes those who have excelled in their fields of study and during their time as a Racer. Both will also speak at commencement.

Stein and Timmermann were announced as the 2023 outstanding seniors at the April 26 Senior Breakfast.

Stein said she was proud and caught off guard when she received an email telling her she would be an Outstanding Senior. 

“I read it, and I was like, ‘Are they sure they want to pick me?’ just because at first I wasn’t confident in myself and what I have done,” Stein said.

However, Stein said her confidence grew as she reflected on her time at Murray State as a biology major on the pre-optometry track. 

“After looking back at, you know, my four years here, I have done a lot, and I am a really hard worker,” Stein said.

Stein’s experience at Murray State started in 2019 as a Presidential Fellow where she was required to do five hours of research a week under Assistant Biology Professor Chris Trzepacz’s mentorship.  

Although Trzepacz’s research had to do with worms, Stein still found the experience to be useful for her career in optometry.

“With the research that he was doing, it was super helpful in just kind of getting some practice with fine motor skills and everything like that because the worms are microscopic,” Stein said. “As an optometrist in the future, I’m going to be doing a lot  of fine motor skills work.”

Beyond her work as a Presidential Fellow, Stein was on the cross country and track team for three years but decided to leave the team in order to pursue a path closer to her field. 

Stein then got a job as a medical technician at Jarvis Vision Center. 

Working in eye care, Stein said, she was able to see all of the behind-the-scene workings that go into optometry.

In her role, she led patients through the eye exam, finalized the prescription for the doctor and went over the results with the patients. After six months, she then moved to the optical side of the work—like making glasses.

“You know, cutting the lenses, dispensing them to a patient, is kind of even just like the more aesthetic part of choosing what would look good on a patient,” Stein said.

Stein credits her mother with getting her feet on the Murray State campus.

“I had no idea what Murray State was…she signed me up for a tour without me even knowing and was like, “yeah, I’m taking you out of school on Friday, we’re going down to western Kentucky,’” Stein said. 

Stein thought she would be taking a trip to Western Kentucky University, but instead, her mother brought her to Murray State. 

After graduation, Stein plans to attend Indiana University’s School of Optometry. 

Timmermann was announced as an outstanding senior alongside Stein. Like Stein, he is a Presidential Fellow. 

Timmermann is a student ambassador for the University and the chemistry department and works as a chemistry tutor. 

During his time as an undergraduate student, Timmermann has already had his research published during his work with Organic and Polymer Chemistry Professor Kevin Miller.

“I got published my sophomore year in the American Chemical Society journal for applied polymer chemistry, and that was really cool,” Timmermann said. “I’m working toward a second publication this summer as well, which is gonna be really cool if I get to.”

Along with having publishing research, Timmermann has presented at two American Chemical Society conferences. Although Timmermann has had public speaking experience, he finds being a commencement speaker as something out of his comfort zone. 

 “The only formal speech training I’ve had was in a Zoom class, so there wasn’t much in front of people practice,” Timmermann said. “The only other presentations I’ve given are chemistry presentations, which are kind of supposed to be boring, you’re not exactly supposed to be all that interesting since it’s about chemistry.”

Similar to Stein, Timmermann was surprised to be one the outstanding senior recipients and didn’t know he was in the running for the award. 

“I remember I read through the email multiple times. I was like, ‘what is this, what does this even mean?’” Timmermann said. “I was really confused, so I called my mom and she’s like, ‘yeah, I’m pretty sure like, that’s the Outstanding Senior Award.’”

To conclude their career as Racers, Stein will be a speaker at the 9 a.m. commencement on May 13. Timmermann will be speaking at the 1 p.m. commencement on May 13. 

After graduation Timmermann will begin  a doctoral student at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

“I’ve really just had an amazing undergraduate experience socially and academically. It’s the best undergraduate experience I could have ever asked for,” Timmermann said. “I’m just thankful and, it’s gonna be tough to leave.”

[email protected]