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Discovery named for Winthrop classmate killed in car crash

Hannah Floyd had just graduated from Winthrop University with honors and a double major in biology and psychology.

The 24-year-old Chester native planned to pursue neuropsychology, the study of the brain and its functions, and had "great promise," according to one of her professors.

That was cut short in December, when the car Floyd was riding in slid off the right side of northbound Interstate 85 in Mecklenburg County, hitting a utility pole and killing Floyd - two weeks after graduation.

While at Winthrop, she had the chance to work in labs and do some scientific research. And thanks to two Winthrop students, her memory will live on in the field she loved so much.

Recent Winthrop graduate Joseph Bursey and student Lance Graham are nearly through describing and naming a new flatworm species they plan to name Parotoplana hannahfloydae, in honor of Hannah Floyd.

Bursey and Graham spent the summer researching the new species as part of the 2011 Science Summer Undergraduate Research Experience in North Carolina. Hannahfloydae is found at low tide on Emerald Isle near Bogue Banks in North Carolina and near Long Beach and Oak Island, also in North Carolina.

They showcased their research via posters last week in McBryde Hall at the university.

Bursey's and Graham's posters show several renderings of the .5 millimeter flatworm, one of which Bursey e-mailed to Floyd's father. He told Bursey he planned to frame it and hang it on the wall in honor of his daughter.

Bursey had several classes with Floyd.

"There was hardly any area of science you could top her in," he said.

For example, he said, if you were talking about an area within the field, Floyd could walk up, join the conversation mid-sentence and have something relevant to say.

Graham had seen Floyd only in passing but heard much about her through the university's "close-knit biology community."

When the two students embarked upon the project, they eventually came to the naming portion.

"It's always fun when you try to come up with names," Graham said. "I think it's a great idea."

He said he'd had it in the back of his mind to name it after Floyd, but it was Bursey who vocalized it.

Julian Smith, an associate professor of biology who worked with the students on the project, was touched when they told him their idea for the name.

Bursey made the call to Floyd's parents to ask for permission, a call he said was emotional.

"They were ecstatic about the idea and couldn't believe we wanted to do this," he said.

Floyd's father told Bursey his daughter would have been so happy to know this had been named for her.

"She was a very bright student who would have gone a long way in science," Bursey said. "This is a way to immortalize and honor what she was."

"She was really nice, and it was a tragedy," Graham agreed. "This is our way to put in a memory to her in the field of science."

Floyd's friends think so, too.

Winthrop graduate Dante Swinton considers it an "incredibly sweet gesture."

"I know she is missed and would've done even more great things if she were still here," he said. "We love her."

Aaron Greer, a friend of Floyd's and a Winthrop graduate, described her as a "brilliant academic and a true force of love."

"She was also very humble and would be completely honored that her memory is being kept alive by the friends she cherished doing the work that brought her so much happiness," he said.

He added that he misses Floyd and thinks about her every day.

"I'm confident she would shed a tear and share a hug with her fellow researchers for immortalizing her in the scientific community," he said.

Floyd's family established a scholarship in her name at the university earlier this year for students majoring in psychology or biology, with first preference to female students from Chester County. Preference is also given to females who have played in Dixie Girls softball, a sport Floyd enjoyed as a young athlete.