Christine Phipps ’19, who received an American Institute of Chemists Award, answered a few questions about her path to chemistry. At Transy she participated in the American Chemical Society Demo Exchange and presented research at the Ohio Inorganic Weekend and the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in New Orleans. She’s been awarded a full scholarship and stipend to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Louisville.
Where did you grow up, and why did you choose Transy?
I grew up in Belvedere, Illinois, by Chicago. I chose Transy because I wanted to go somewhere that would be an adventure, and when I came for a scholarship interview I fell in love!
When did you know that you wanted to major in chemistry? What is it about chemistry that draws you to it?
I knew I wanted to major in chemistry in sophomore year of high school. I love how chemistry is what it is. I love figuring out why things do or do not happen, like a puzzle. While at Transy, my professors not only taught me chemistry, but how chemistry makes our lives better. I knew I wanted to be a part of that. I originally came to Transy as pre-med, but quickly realized I didn’t like the people as much as the lab and figured I could help the world through chemistry.
What are the benefits of getting a liberal arts education? How has your broader education made you a better scientist?
I started researching with Dr. Brown the summer after my freshman year. Dr. Csuhai, my a term prof, recommended that I get in with a professor early to research, no matter if I stayed pre-med or changed my mind. The best thing at Transy, in my opinion, is the research opportunities in the hard sciences. In other universities it’s super competitive, but here more of the majors get a chance to work with their PI [principal investigator] one-on-one because there are fewer people. How down-to-earth Dr. Brown is made it easy for me to go to her with questions and learn more about my chemistry while learning how to problem-shoot problems that are unique to my synthesis.
While at Transy, my professors not only taught me chemistry, but how chemistry makes our lives better. I knew I wanted to be a part of that.Christine Phipps ’19
How did being at Transy help you define your path? What were the opportunities that helped you progress (research, presentations, mentoring)?
The chemistry department has a challenging curriculum that forces students to troubleshoot in the lab and internalize core concepts. My 100 Doors mentor, Jo Ellen Hayden, helped me rule out potential careers by helping me learn how much I couldn’t handle being a vet. She helped me get an internship at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute during foaling season. … My core classes had me read scientific papers and present on them to learn how to critically read a chemistry paper.
How did Transy help you stand out to grad programs?
Hands down my research experience was the biggest help in getting into graduate schools. My schooling is paid for, and I get a stipend at the University of Louisville, where I’ll be getting my Ph.D. in chemistry!
What do you hope to do when you finish your studies?
I hope to work with the Department of Energy to find more efficient fuel sources. Coal actually doesn’t keep the lights on.
How has Transy prepared you to succeed?
The research experience and intimate professor/student relationships.
I’m going to miss hearing about all the chemistry department pets. I’m going to miss the day Dr. Bob finally gets a dog. I’m going to miss the chess live-streams. I’m going to miss watching “The Office” on my laptop on the chem floor.