Hendrix Science Students Explore Research Careers through EPROACH

Five Hendrix College students explored careers and career paths in atmospheric chemistry research in an intensive two-week program at Storm Peak Lab and across the Colorado Front Range.

In 2014, Professor of Chemistry Courtney D. Hatch ’00 developed Experiences in Professional Research Organizations and Atmospheric Chemistry at Hendrix (EPROACH) with the support of the Morris and Ann Henry Odyssey Professorship. The National Science Foundation currently funds EPROACH, which provides Hendrix students the opportunity to gain engaged learning credit through the Hendrix Odyssey Program while exploring their interests in pursuing research careers in the sciences, with a focus on atmospheric chemistry. Hatch accompanied the students — Cayman Botner ’20, Karen Morris ’21, Krishna Patel ’21, Olivia Eddings ’21, and Rebecca Parham ’21 — and guided them through EPROACH activities, including:

  • informal meetings with a variety of research scientists at all stages of their careers
  • personal tours of professional and government laboratories, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), and the National Ice Core Lab (NICL)
  • visits to academic graduate programs at Colorado State University and the University of Colorado – Boulder
  • taking high-altitude atmospheric measurements at Storm Peak Laboratory atop Mt. Werner in Steamboat Springs, Colo.  

“Visiting a variety of research facilities allowed me to realize that there are careers out there with the moral value that I desire,” said Eddings, who plans to focus her career path on addressing environmental issues. “In addition to this, having the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with graduate students, post-docs, and Ph.D. researchers reminded me of how grateful I am to have a liberal arts education that can provide me with the interdisciplinary tools to attempt to better solve environmental issues in a collective way that considers multiple perspectives.”

Parham recommends EPROACH to fellow students who are curious about careers in environmental chemistry or graduate school. “EPROACH has exposed me to different career paths, and also has provided insight on leading research in the atmospheric chemistry field,” she said. “In meeting a variety of researchers, I was able to get answers to my questions about research and graduate school, and even be challenged to answer new questions about my personal career goals that I hadn’t thought of before. By the end of the trip, I felt confident in my career ambitions and aware of the obstacles I may face as a future researcher.”

Hatch created EPROACH in response to her own lack of awareness of the vast array of fields and careers in the environmental sciences as an undergraduate. 

“It is true that you don’t know what you don’t know. The intended outcome of this program is to expose students to career pathways, research opportunities, graduate programs, and technical and professional skills that pave the way to successful careers in the chemical and geochemical sciences,” she said. “My hope is that the students who participated in EPROACH this year are now more aware of opportunities for research careers and will give themselves time to reflect on the experience to help them gain a greater understanding of their future role in the sciences.”