December Update: Thank You and A Little More About Me

Hello everyone and happy holidays! This semester has been a busy one. All of my graduate school applications are in and I have been accepted to two schools. I was able to take advantage of this finals week and work in lab with a similar schedule to this past summer. As we have come to a conclusion to the semester, I have been reflecting about how grateful I am for the opportunities I have been given. William & Mary has truly prepared me to move on and continue my growth as a researcher. Since you have only heard about my research for the last 8 months, I thought you would like to hear more about my research earlier on during my time at William and Mary. Here is an essay that I wrote for graduate school applications about my research experience. I hope it fills in more of my background. Thank you again for your continued support and I hope that you have a wonderful break!

My prior experience:

I am prepared to make this next step after graduation due to my experience in research from undergraduate. I joined Dr. McNamara’s inorganic chemistry research group in the spring of 2015 my freshman year. I worked with a senior student named Kathryn Mayer for one semester, assisting on her project to investigate the optimal conditions for a cobalt catalyst under homogenous photocatalytic conditions. I was introduced to the basic principles behind our lab and how to manipulate our photochemical set up. I typically went into lab around three to four hours a week. The following fall, I worked with Carolyn Hartley and Ryan DiRisio on our family of iron catalysts. Utilizing the same methodology, we investigated the optimal conditions of this family under homogeneous conditions. As my familiarity with our protocol increased, I would be in lab for four to six hours a week. Throughout the course of the year I was able to assist and observe how you pose research questions. I was able to discuss why our experiments had their particular protocol and how we made decisions about what experiments to run. This work was published in fall 2016.

William & Mary provides opportunities to be paid for research so I applied for a summer scholarship. The career center saw the project’s potential and gave me the opportunity to work full time for ten weeks. Throughout the summer I had two objectives. First, I assisted Ryan DiRisio and Dr. McNamara in collecting additional data on our iron catalyst family for publication revisions. Second, I also started to work with Wendy Zhang to evaluate and characterize a heterogeneous photochemical catalyst. After Wendy graduated in July, I took on a leadership role in the lab. I helped teach our new master’s student Nick Race about our photochemical set up and the heterogeneous catalyst project.

After the summer session was over, I was able to continue working on the heterogeneous iron catalyst project with Nick Race and a new addition, Brett Barden. With the school year resuming, I could not work full time but I did come in six to eight hours a week due to my increased familiarity in lab and increased responsibility. Throughout the course of my junior year, I assisted in collecting data on the heterogeneous iron catalyst. I also started a synthetic protocol to expand the breath of the project. Working in conjunction with Sophie Padilla, I synthesized another iron catalyst with more promise for a more stable bond to the semiconductor in the heterogeneous catalytic system. This synthetic project and its photochemical experiments will be a part of my honors thesis.

Through my previous experience and progress in lab I was awarded a grant to work over the summer of 2017. With this opportunity, I was able to fine tune and work out the road bumps in my synthesis. I was able to confirm my final product and start photochemical testing. In addition, I helped collect data for our heterogeneous photochemical system with Nick and Brett. This work is currently being written up for publication.

With the start of senior year, I have continued my photochemical studies of my catalyst of interest. Through the process of writing the honors thesis, I am able to work in a lab nine to twelve hours a week. I will continue to work on this project through the spring. I will write up and defend my work in May. I hope to collect enough data to help contribute to another heterogeneous photochemical paper to continue our group’s work.