Continuing a long and storied excellence among students in the Chestnut Hill College science programs, Gladyeliz Hernandez ‘21 and Anastasia Watson ‘21 were selected to present their research at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Crossroads of Chemistry conference in Indianapolis, Indiana in March 2023.
The annual conference brings together thousands of chemistry professionals to meet and share ideas and advance scientific and technical knowledge. Thanks to funding through the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) via the Clare Boothe Luce Foundation, Hernandez and Watson completed analytical chemistry research alongside CHC faculty members Rebecca Eikey, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, and Karen Wendling, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry and chair of the Center for Natural & Behavioral Sciences. The Clare Boothe Luce Foundation prioritizes supporting women and minority students that are still underrepresented in the fields of STEM, such as chemistry and mathematics.
The students’ research, which was developed over a summer-long period, focused on better understanding the amounts of active ingredients in common products on the market to see if consumers are getting what they think they are paying for. Hernandez designed her project to figure out the ingredients that make up pumpkin spice and if that ingredient composition remains the same across pumpkin spice flavored foods and beverages. Watson’s research project looked at detecting the amounts of CBD (Cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) in commercial CBD oils.
“It was great to see the curiosity of our students wanting to know more, going through the ups and downs of repeating experiments, and building confidence in the laboratory” says Eikey.
Chestnut Hill College prides itself on its small class sizes and individualized attention to student growth, something both Watson and Hernandez valued as they worked on their summer research.
“It means everything and why I chose to be here,” notes Hernandez, who is a first-generation sophomore at the College. “I wanted a small class size and to do hands on work. I enjoyed the entire summer bonding with Dr. Eikey and Dr. Wendling because it allowed me to ask questions that I wouldn’t ask in a group scenario. My professors have a willingness to teach you and be patient with you. It helped me realize that even though it is a small school, there are so many opportunities to take advantage of.”
The conference allowed the students to get a wider scope of the potential for a career in chemistry. At the conference, students gained experience presenting research to other scientists in the same field, receiving feedback, and cultivating contacts for jobs, other internships, and graduate school programs. “While CHC offers research opportunities, going to the conference can open students’ eyes to how much is out there, because chemistry is a huge field with a lot of sub fields.” says Wendling.
Wendling noted her commitment to her students saying, “I find that a lot of students who have an experience like this, especially more and more are first-generation students, go on to have that wake-up moment that they can do this, whether that be grad school or something else.”
Hernandez, a forensic chemistry major, echoed the sentiments of her professor, noting that this opportunity will help her find other internships and when applying to graduate school. “Chemistry is something I'm passionate about,” she says. “At first, I was unsure, because chemistry is difficult and requires diligence. Now I see myself in the long run working in chemistry either in lab or outside of the lab.”
- Jaime Renman