Last summer, I was accepted to a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) from West Virginia University. It was very exciting for me, because I knew that it is rare for second-year students to be accepted. It was my first opportunity to get a lot of experience in a lab, instead of the factory I work in at home. I was nervous about using new techniques and instrumentation. When I applied to REUs for this summer, I was more confident that I would be accepted. Being accepted to Stanford is very exciting, because that was one of my top picks that I had applied to.
I know that I will be working in the Biosciences. There are a few labs that are focused in neuroscience, which is where I would like to work for the summer. Hopefully, I will be doing research to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms of how neurons generate signals and send them to other cells. That research would have pharmacological implications.
The research that I did last summer T West Virginia University was focused on the organic synthesis of indoles, which are commonly used in pharmaceuticals because they are very biologically active. I was looking at a method for synthesis that had been discovered in the 1970s in Tokyo, but had not been written about since then. The procedure for the reaction was really vague, so I spent that summer trying to find the best conditions to run the reactions and what types of molecules can be used for it. A better understanding of indole synthesis can mean more efficient production of different types of medicine.
The first research I did at Edinboro was at the end of my freshman year. Dr. Armatas was working with an older student, researching the process of making beer. I was invited to help with that to introduce me to research and to help me feel more comfortable in the lab.
My sophomore year, we worked on extracting chemicals from natural sources. We chose to look at St. John’s-wort, which is a plant that has been used for treating moderate depression, although there are few clinical trials to show its effectiveness. We have been separating out hyperforin and giving that to Dr. McLaughlin in the Psychology Department at Edinboro, and he has been injecting it into rats so we can see how it affects their mood. Next year, I'm planning on working with Dr. Foradori in the Biology Department on some genetic analysis in spider silk. I want to broaden my experience, and get out of the Chemistry Department for a little bit and get some more biology.
When I started at Edinboro, I was actually a Biology major, and I wanted to go into neuropharmacology. My freshman year, while I was taking Chemistry 241 with Dr. Armatas, I asked him for a letter of recommendation for a women's leadership program that I was applying for. He asked me about my major, future goals, etc., so that he would be able to write a good letter for me. When he heard about my interests, he told me that Chemistry might be better for my future, and I was doing so well in his class, he thought it would be a waste for me to not give Chemistry a try.
Dr. Armatas is easily the biggest influence in my academic career. He is the reason I got into Chemistry. He got me started as a tutor and a lab assistant in the Chem Department. He gave me my first research experience, and then even designed the St. John’s-wort project for me even though biology and neuroscience are not his main areas of experience. He encouraged me to apply to lots of REUs when I was a sophomore, even though we both knew I did not have a good chance of being accepted anywhere, and he wrote all my letters of recommendation.
Because of his encouragement, I got to go to West Virginia, and now I'll go to Stanford. I'm a member of the American Chemical Society. I'm an officer of Bunsen, Edinboro's Chemistry Society. And I have a close relationship with the faculty and other students in the Chemistry Department here. I honestly don't know what I would be doing now if I hadn't asked him for that letter of recommendation freshman year, but I think I'm in the right place now, and I'm glad he helped direct me to where I am.