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Honors Research at the American Chemical Society

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Mattie Braselton and Jenae Smith

Every year, one or two honors students usually attend the American Chemical Society’s annual conference, but this year five chemistry students—Mattie Braselton (’18), Olivia Perdue (’17), Jenae Smith (’18), Jonathan Taylor (’16), and Riley Theis (’16)—took their research to the meeting, which was held in Columbia, South Carolina. Both students and professionals alike attended the conference, including 2008 Nobel Peace Prize winner for chemistry, Martin Chalfie.

Each student was able to transform their work from the classroom into well-developed research through the support of their mentors. Jonathan Taylor’s mentor is Dr. Ji Wu, a professor of Analytical Chemistry.

Taylor said, “Often times the roles of the student and the professor can feel separated, but spending time with Dr. Wu, and other professors around the department, has helped to remind me that they were all undergraduates at one point too.”

Professors are valuable resources because they understand the struggles and difficulties that come with undergraduate research because they had similar experiences. Smith appreciates that fact that professors “have been in [our] shoes before.”

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Riley Theis

The students heard about the American Chemical Society through their mentors, who act as a bridge between the academic and professional worlds. Many of the mentors also played a vital role in the development of the poster presentations. “Whenever I had questions, I would ask my mentor, and he gave a lot of tips about presenting my poster,” Smith said.

The five honors students were appreciative of the experience because many students do not receive opportunities to present research at the undergraduate level. Smith was genuinely excited for the moment to present because this was her first conference in her undergraduate career. She also attended the graduate school fair at the conference and gained “information from schools with some of the top chemistry departments.”

The overall experience provided the students will skills in communication, research, and public speaking.

Perdue loved meeting “other people as passionate about chemistry as [she is],” a sentiment Theis also agreed with.

“I thoroughly enjoyed talking with other students about their research and having the opportunity to network with renowned scientists,” she said.

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