Pharmacy, a Medical Device, and Academics

Katelyn France takes a triple win at UMD.


Katelyn France was sitting quietly at her kitchen table with her mom when the email arrived on her computer. She screamed. Her mom panicked, thinking something was wrong, and began shouting back, “What! What happened? What’s wrong?”  Katelyn told her the good news. 


A few weeks later, Katelyn was riding with her dad in their car when she got another notification. This time it was on her cell-phone. It was an email flagged from UMD. “I always open the flagged emails,” Katelyn said. When she read the message, Katelyn screamed. “My dad almost drove off the road.” 

Katelyn has a lot to be excited about. The two “scream-worthy” emails and a third equally as good, were big news to this junior biochemistry and German studies major. In a few short weeks she received three prestigious awards: a National Center for Women and Information Technology’s Change Leader Fellowship, an American Heart Association scholarship, and the Warren F. Davis scholarship.


Recruiting Students to UMD

The three scholarships all come with responsibilities but those tasks and the COVID-19 Shelter-in-place order didn’t stop Katelyn from her work as a UMD tour guide and admissions recruiter. She kept on working to help high school students apply to UMD.


Since 2018, Katelyn has worked with the UMD admissions office as a tour guide. However, she has done more than take prospective students and parents through the halls of UMD. She regularly checks in with her own Hinckley-Finlayson High School to help students figure out what colleges they want to go to and how to apply for them. 


Katelyn stays in touch with two students from her home town who she helped get admitted to UMD. These students, a sophomore and a freshman, keep in contact with her.


Katelyn’s goal is to recruit students for UMD, but she helps all students regardless of their desired destination. She helps them create essays, talks them through the application process, and helps their families file for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). She’s also learning how to be a UMD orientation leader, all from home. 


It Started With an Invention

These new awards join numerous accolades Katelyn has earned at UMD, beginning with her entry to UMD as a sophomore in high school in fall 2016. They all, in one way or another, link to a high school project that blossomed into a commercial endeavor.

Picture of Katelyn's QR braclet. It has the medical symbol in the center without obstructing the code.

Katelyn’s project, which has gained regional attention, is a medical bracelet. It uses a QR code bracelet to let bystanders assist in the case of an emergency involving a person with allergies and anaphylaxis. It was designed with rural locations in mind where emergency services aren’t readily available. The code brings up medical information and instructions on how to act in the emergency. Along with the bracelet, Katelyn created a biomedical engineering company called SMYLE which stands for Scientists Making Your Life Easier. Her company provides a way to teach young students various science practices.


Academics and Scholarships

Katelyn’s new scholarships would have never happened without the QR bracelet and her seemingly never-ending interest in science and medicine. Some of the awards come with responsibilities, and all reward the pursuit of excellence. 


One of the main goals for the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s Change Leader Fellowship is to give back and teach what has been learned. Katelyn is part of a series online meetings with peers and leaders. She is working on future projects with them to give inspiration and access to resources for young girls.


The American Heart Association’s goals include saving people from heart disease and stroke. They reward students for innovative research, such as another of Katelyn’s projects. Katelyn worked with Dr. Jacob Brown of the Pharmacy school.  

Katelyn France

“We partnered with this fantastic inpatient facility in Frederic, Wisconsin, and I got to work with a large variety of children,” Katelyn said. Their research focuses on genomic stratification and how children react to certain common medications. She continues to update her bracelet with Dr. Victor Lai, an assistant professor in the chemical engineering department. An article for her bracelet was published in the 2020 UMD Honors student journal, Aisthesis.

Katelyn’s final surprise was the Warren F. Davis Scholarship, which is presented to UMD students. It is awarded to students who demonstrate excellence in the field of biochemistry  


This past spring semester was exciting and busy. Even with the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, Katelyn juggled 21 credits and a long list of personal endeavors: her QR project, her SMYLE business, her UROP in chemical engineering, and her job as a UMD admission counselor. 


Through it all, Katelyn’s end goal hasn’t wavered. Ultimately, she would like to earn her doctorate in pharmacy. Based on her past success, it’s practically guaranteed.

Banner photo (above): Katelyn France explains her medical bracelet concept in 2019 at an entrepreneur event where Minnesota Governor Tim Walz was one of the panelists. Photo: Duluth News Tribune.

About the UMD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry 

About the UMD German Studies program

About University Honors

This story was written by UMD student Bailey Jacobson, who is double-majoring in English and writing studies. Bailey works with Cheryl Reitan in University Marketing and Public Relations.