The pandemic may have changed how we interact with each other, but it did not stop Hendrix students from engaging in meaningful professional activities this past summer. During the break, 12 undergraduate science majors participated in a special Odyssey project titled Experiences in Professional Research Organizations and Atmospheric Chemistry at Hendrix (EPROACH).
In 2014, Professor and Chair of Chemistry Dr. Courtney D. Hatch ’00 developed the EPROACH program with the support of the Morris and Ann Henry Odyssey Professorship. Now supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation, EPROACH provides Hendrix science 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.
EPROACH participants this past summer included Eric Horan ’21, Adam De Groodt ’21, Catherine Mariza ’23, Kameron Molloy ’21, Kyle Bounds ’23, Tyler Odell ’21, Grace Bryant ’22, Jennifer Wu ’23, Miles Johnson ’21, Madelyn Klinkerman ’21, Linh Phung ’23, and Julia Dick ’23. Hatch served as their faculty mentor while guiding them through a variety of professional development and networking activities, including:
- designing personal learning goals to guide reflection of program activities
- attending the virtual American Chemical Society Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference
- attending virtual research seminars with leading scientists in the academic, government, industry, and non-profit sectors
- networking with graduate students and research professionals
- exploring STEM research careers
- reflecting on vocational purpose and professional aspirations.
“This year has thrown a wrench in many students’ opportunities to participate in undergraduate research, so what better time to learn about new fields of research and reflect on vocational interests and aspirations?” Hatch says. While the program was initially designed as an intensive two-week experience in Colorado, the pandemic required the program to pivot to a virtual platform.
Despite the remote nature of EPROACH for the summer of 2020, it remained successful as it continued to “spark the curiosity of student interests, encourage self-reflection and understanding, provide mentorship for aspiring scientists, and support ‘engagement that links the classroom to the world’ (Hendrix College Statement of Purpose).”
“While some students find the EPROACH experience helps solidify their career aspirations, others find new scientific interests they haven’t had the opportunity to explore,” says Hatch. Linh Phung, who is pursuing a B.A. in Biochemistry/Molecular Biology (BCMB) agrees: “My experience in this program has significantly aided in the transformation of my career aspirations,” Phung said.
Julia Dick, a computer science major, also found inclusion “amongst a sub-community of Chemistry and BCMB majors.”
“It was surprisingly easy for me to find a career path into a major research lab where someone from my discipline could potentially fit,” she said. “Making these realizations was the most exciting part of each meeting.”
“Every year, but particularly during the pandemic, the level of personal growth and professional awareness that the students achieve by participating in EPROACH is amazing to watch in real-time,” Hatch says. As Madelyn Klinkerman, a senior Murphy Scholar double majoring in chemistry and Spanish, prepares for her own post-Hendrix career, she confides that she will “definitely rely on what I’ve learned from my time with EPROACH.”