Undergraduate Research @ OSU
Chloe Ramsperger has been involved in our Undergraduate Research program since Fall term. Originally from Lake Arrowhead, California she attended Redlands High School in Redlands, CA. She has always been a fan of the CSI crime dramas and her interest in them inspired her to study Forensic Dentistry. After visiting the Oregon State University campus in her Junior year and with the recommendation of her uncle, who was an alumni, she decided to start her college career here at OSU. Since Chemistry Majors have a Forensic Science track, it seemed a clear choice for major.
It was in her Careers in Chemistry class where she spoke with Rich Carter, one of the professors in the chemistry department, and learned about undergraduate research opportunities that coincided with her interests. The opportunity to get a head start on research, and the advantages it can provide for getting into graduate school later in her college career, was a major motivator to her seeking out a research group. She also sites her experience in undergraduate research as an important part of why she enjoys her choice of major. Her research in electrochemistry in biological environments, specifically oral bacterial interactions, fits well with her interests and presents its own opportunities to learn. Research doesn’t come with a lab manual, unlike a chemistry class would, and Chloe feels like it gives her a whole new perspective on her studies. Not every experiment goes perfectly and sometimes the data does more to find out what doesn’t work than what does. In a way, research is more about developing your own kind of lab manual.
Not all of her time is spent in the lab, though. She volunteers with her sorority, participates in intermural volleyball and still finds time to hang out with her friends. In hindsight, the one thing she wishes she had done when she first got to OSU was explore more of the opportunities and clubs on campus. She recommends students get out more and see everything the campus has to offer. At the end of the interview we learned that Chloe is happy that Fall has settled in, as her favorite dessert is a slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream!
We’re equally happy to have had the chance to talk to Chloe about her experiences as an undergraduate researcher. Research can provide many opportunities for students to get a new perspective on their learning, find practical applications for their classes and discover new dimensions to their chosen major!
Molly Austin is a fourth year chemistry major and plans on going into a physician assistant’s program after graduation. She is originally from Iowa and attended high school in Lake Oswego before starting her chemistry program at Oregon State University. She felt she needed a college that was close enough to give her the opportunity to be near to family but far enough away to allow her some greater independence. She had previously visited the campus and enjoyed how it felt like its own unified community.
Her first explorations into undergraduate research came about after she was approached by Dr. Sleszynski. He had seen her skill in chemistry, driven by her abiding interest in chemistry as the underlying science behind many of the health fields she was interested in pursuing. She began Winter term of her Freshman year in Dr. Loesgen’s lab which focused on natural products. Dr. Sleszynski had emphasized the benefits of getting into a research project early and Molly considered it was worth a try. She knew it would give her a chance to get more hands-on with chemistry, something she was eager to do. Her lab focuses on natural product discovery, which focuses on metabolites from microorganisms or plants that can provide new medications and treatments for a variety of conditions. Her own research has been working on developing new antibiotics from marine bacteria.
Unlike classes, where the focus is about absorbing information and understanding functions of equipment, Molly feels that research is considerably more hands-on. In a lab, you get the chance to set up your own experiments and examine your own data. This also requires a broader spectrum of interaction with other disciplines as well, mixing microbiology and genetics with organic chemistry in ways you can’t always get in the classroom. It also gave her a considerable amount of independence in determining the direction of her research projects.
That said, the biggest benefit she found going into undergraduate research was finding a research project that fit well with her interests. She wasn’t sure at first if it was for her, but taking that initial leap exposed her to the opportunity and let her discover that she was interested and enjoyed what research could provide. She suggests exploring the opportunities out there in research to both find options that fit with your field of interest and if research is the right option for you.
When not busy discovering, she enjoys time with her friends, volleyball, soccer, Frisbee and trying to make the time to explore the ceramics lab in the Craft Center. Coming up to the end of her schooling, she did suggest that incoming students take a little more time to explore some of the other classes that are available on campus. Sometimes you can get so focused on meeting the requirements of your major, you don’t always take time to branch out early on and find in your later terms, that you have more time free to explore than you may have thought.
As we wrapped up we finished with the most important question, what is Molly’s go to dessert? She let us know that her favorite food was chocolate and its optimal form was a good chocolate mousse with whipped cream on top. As always, we’re glad to get to know our undergrad researchers! We’d like to say thanks to Molly Austin for participating in in the interview and wish her the best in her future research projects!
Noah Tufts is an enthusiastic undergraduate in our research program. Growing up in and around the Portland Area, he attended Forest Grove High School. His father was a chemist and being able to see what chemistry was and how it worked helped to encourage his curiosity. High School gave him an opportunity to better develop his understanding and even take on his own experiments in material science! Once he received his acceptance letter to Oregon State, he was sold. He felt that OSU offers the same sort of opportunities he could find elsewhere, it just requires perseverance and a little more work. Getting to stay closer to home and the lower cost of being a resident student also helped to solidify his choice.
Getting involved in undergraduate research was also something he knew he wanted to get involved in. By his second year at OSU, he was determined to get more involved in the department and research opportunities that existed. Despite being turned down for his first few attempts, he kept reaching out and meeting people in his classes and in the department. Finally, working with his Experimental Chemistry TA, he reached out to Dr. Beaudry and expressed his enthusiasm for his current research project. When offered the opportunity to sit in on the research meetings, he made a point of attending every one and getting to know the people involved in the project. Now he is a valuable member of the Beaudry lab group and thrilled to be helping to drive this valuable research forward.
Noah also recommended reaching out and talking to people involved in research. By speaking to TAs, grad students and the people involved in research, you have a greater chance of getting involved in the projects that inspire you and find the people who will vouch for you to join their labs. This network is also extremely helpful in moving into employment or graduate school at the end of your undergraduate work. Having people who know you and can speak to your experience is invaluable!
While research gives you the opportunity to be involved in a practical application of your education, it also exists as an extension of your learning. Research gives you an opportunity to learn through experimentation in addition to your standard educational experience. It is also very self-driven with opportunities to interact with others when needed versus a usual lecture while you are a single student among many others. When not working with his lab or studying, Noah is very involved in the martial arts. With 15 years of Taekwondo under his belt, he is also beginning Judo through the PAC classes offered on campus. He also plays guitar and enjoyed hanging out with friends and relaxing. Though, as we discovered at the end of the interview, he also has a special place in his heart for an excellent slice of cheesecake.
We got the chance to do a video interview with Noah and you can listen to the full discussion by clicking on the video link above!
Following New Research
Discovery and advancement are two key pillars to the research we do here in the Department of Chemistry. We are dedicated to developing a new and exciting future by exploring the nature of chemistry and the world around us. However, the one thing that drives research more than any other part is the people. That's why we have collected these stories, both of what chemistry can do for the world and what chemistry has done for the people working in our labs.
A Different Shade Of Discovery
Mas Subramanian and his students weren't looking for a pigment. Instead, they were looking for a new-high-efficiency conductor using manganese oxide. What popped out of the oven, however, was something completely different. This is the joy of research. Discovering things you didn't even know could be discovered. Working together in groups to advance the understanding of more than just a handful of people. Sometimes, you put something in the oven and only wind up checking another failed attempt off the list. Other times, you find a completely new thing that colors the way you see your research going. That's the nature of discovery, sometimes you end up adding a whole new crayon to the box.