Degree and Class Year
What three words would you use to describe L&C?
Congratulations on your Goldwater scholarship! What was the application process like?
The application process was fairly straightforward; however, it was complicated by some miscommunication. Professor Louis Kuo first told me about this scholarship and my nomination from L&C to apply. After deciding to complete this application, I started working on the required research essay about one month before the application deadline. This gave me plenty of time to critically think about my research, my interests in chemistry and mathematics, and my future plans. About three days before the deadline, I learned that I needed to answer several other questions about my background, interests, and plans, which made me freak out a little bit. However, since I had spent so much time crafting my research essay and thinking about my own goals, I was able to answer these questions pretty easily and turn in the application on time.
Knowing the chances of receiving this award are slim, I had thought about this application process as a method to better understand my research and think about my future. I had learned a lot about myself throughout the application process and, therefore, hadn’t thought a lot about the award itself. As a result, I was both shocked and honored when I received it. I was also very motivated to continue working on research here at L&C because receiving the award gave me the confidence to explore more of my interests. I have also recently begun to think of how much this award could help other L&C students so I have begun encouraging others to go through the application process.
Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming research?
I plan on continuing to work with Dr. Kuo creating chemicals that can be used to reduce the amount of pollutants emitted by burning fossil fuels. I will work particularly on identifying specific chemical substructures and atoms that increase a chemical’s ability to remove pollutants from petroleum. In addition, over this summer, I will be working at the University of Southern California on an electrochemistry project. I am not quite sure of what I will be specifically working on yet but I believe it will be related to improving energy storage techniques.
What advice do you have for students interested in similar opportunities to yours?
It’s super important to talk to faculty about research, internships, classes, and other opportunities. They are very familiar with opportunities that are regularly available for students and can use their connections both inside and outside the college to help find ways to explore interests through school, extracurriculars, and work. It is also extremely important to start working on applications and planning to take advantage of certain opportunities as early as possible. This gives you plenty of time to think about your relationship to these opportunities and critically think about how they can help you discover more about yourself.
What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?
While applying to colleges, I was interested in attending a liberal arts school because I was unsure what I wanted to study and enjoyed learning about all sorts of topics from very different subjects. I also enjoy the sense of community that smaller schools have, and I was looking to attend a college somewhere that was cooler and wetter than Southern California. Both of these interests led me to apply to several small schools in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, I was interested in schools that were close to an urban area but were surrounded with natural spaces. After hearing about Lewis & Clark from two alumni who attended the same high school as me, I decided that L&C matched my interests well and applied to this institution. I decided to attend Lewis & Clark because it is far more diverse than the other institutions I applied to and because there are a lot of hiking trails and parks nearby that I was interested in walking through on a regular basis.
What is your favorite class? What did you take away from this course?
My favorite course was Ordinary Differential Equations. I loved working with a variety of models that I then used to predict the behavior of phenomena based on certain parameters. In addition to testing my mathematics skills, this class enabled me to explore the connections between mathematics and a broad range of other subjects including epidemiology, astronomical physics, and ecology. This greatly tested my interdisciplinary skills and enabled me to use knowledge I had gained from all different kinds of classes at Lewis & Clark to come up with creative ways to construct, manipulate, and use these models.
Did you know what you wanted to major in when you came to L&C? Did that change once you got here? When did you declare your major?
Although I knew that I wanted to major in STEM, I had no idea as a first year that I would specifically major in mathematics and chemistry. This led me to take a wide variety of STEM courses my first two years at L&C so that I could explore different fields. Due to the fact that I came into college with 19 credits from AP courses, I had to declare my major in the fall of my sophomore year before I had decided which subjects to major in. This led to me randomly choosing mathematics. By the spring of my sophomore year, I finally settled on majoring in both chemistry and mathematics, so I declared my second major later that semester. Just because I declared my major, however, did not mean that I did not feel uncertain about my choice in the years following this decision. There were many times during my junior and senior year when I was tempted to change majors because I felt drawn to physics and computer science. Despite this uncertainty, I feel content with the choice I made my sophomore year, and I will pursue my other interests in STEM by working different kinds of jobs after graduation if I feel compelled to do so.
How do you describe the liberal arts?
I think of studying the liberal arts as a way to explore connections between different subjects and gain an understanding of how to approach problems from multiple directions using several different perspectives. It also helps students develop the ability to think creatively and critically about how to work with a variety of people and their ideas to solve complex interdisciplinary issues. It is important to note that the liberal arts are not used specifically to teach students how to perform certain tasks and are instead used to teach students how to learn, think, and therefore more easily pick up skills related to a specific profession later on in life.
Why did you want to attend a liberal arts college? Did you consider other kinds of schools?
I wanted to attend a liberal arts college because I enjoy being able to take a variety of courses and think about concepts that bring multiple subjects together. I worked on several projects in high school that required me to take concepts from the sciences, arts, and humanities to answer challenging questions that I really enjoyed, and I was interested in being able to further explore creatively connecting different subjects together. I did not spend a lot of time looking at non-liberal arts schools—I absolutely wanted variety in my classes and the ability to explore a wide range of topics.
What do you hope to do with your degree?
I will use my degree to further explore the relationship between mathematics and chemistry by working as an analytical and theoretical chemist, both working with chemicals in a laboratory setting and modeling their behavior. Although I have not figured out exactly what I am going to do following graduation, it will likely involve a lot of research, which I greatly enjoy because it allows me to use my interdisciplinary thinking skills to creatively set up experiments and work around problems. I also like working with Excel and other data processing applications a lot, so I may end up working jobs that involve a lot of data management.