COLLEGE STATION --
In celebration of Student Research Week
(March 23-27) at Texas A&M University, the College of Science will be taking five with five different people involved in various aspects and stages of research at Texas A&M and beyond. Today's segment features Jamie N. Wheeler '10
, a Ph.D. candidate and dissertator in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who received her bachelor of science in chemistry from Texas A&M in 2010.
During her time at Texas A&M, Wheeler was an Undergraduate Research Scholar
and completed an undergraduate thesis under the mentorship of Texas A&M chemist James Batteas. She also got the chance to work in science policy in Washington, D.C., with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) as a participant in the Texas A&M Public Policy Internship Program
We caught up with Wheeler en route to Denver for the American Chemical Society Spring 2015 National Meeting and Expo, and she agreed to share her thoughts on her time in Aggieland and how research, among other undergraduate experiences, helped shape her current career path.
What made you decide to pursue a degree in chemistry and at Texas A&M University, at that?
"I took two years of chemistry in high school. When I started the first year, I expected the course to be my last science course in high school; I sincerely intended to pursue other interests. From the first unit, I loved learning about chemical processes and trends. I still remember the trickiest significant figure question on the first exam. I loved and still love the chemical view of the world -- using chemistry to explain how things work.
"I actually applied and was accepted to Texas A&M as a chemical engineering major. In the winter of my senior year of high school, I decided I was more interested in how the chemistry worked than in the scale-up. I switched to chemistry before my New Student Conference and added my English minor during my sophomore year. (Spoiler alert:
I've accepted a job as an engineer. Your major isn't everything, but it accounts for a lot of your experience. Experiences, interests and networking make the path forward.)
"As for choosing Texas A&M, I was born and raised in Texas. I love Texas. Once I decided to stay in Texas for college, I chose to attend Texas A&M specifically because campus felt like home. When I visited, the friendly, community-oriented environment felt like a personality match, and the opportunities seemed endless. I knew I would get a good education. I cherish the time and the people and the experiences."
What are your favorite memories of your time at Texas A&M?
"I have so many special memories from my time at Texas A&M. A few that come to mind right away are the first time I went pond hopping freshman year (can you print that?); eating a celebratory hot breakfast at Sbisa after organic chemistry exams; being presented with my Aggie Ring by my older sister, Kendra Wheeler '07 (a biology graduate); and the feeling of patriotism and inspiration to live the core values that I always felt in the Memorial Student Center, especially in the quiet, old back hallway where the Congressional Medals of Honor used to be."
In what aspects of the Honors Program and in research overall did you participate?
"I lived in Lechner Hall as a freshman and was active on Hall Council, planning some pretty red ass dorm parties under the dome of the Academic Building. I was a President's Endowed Scholar and University Scholar, so I took small, special-topics seminar courses each semester sophomore through senior year on topics ranging from comedy to the philosophy of war and violence. I earned University and Foundation Honors, so those pursuits guided me to take a variety of honors courses, across subjects, throughout my time at Texas A&M.
"For research, I worked with Prof. James Batteas in Chemistry in the Undergraduate Research Scholars Program during my junior year. I studied porphyrin self-assembly, completed a thesis and presented a poster at Student Research Week 2009. I also worked with Prof. Jaime Grunlan in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science during my senior spring and summer, formulating and characterizing polymer nanocomposites."
How did those research-related experiences help to shape your career path?
"I am currently a dissertator in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, set to finish my Ph.D. this year. My undergraduate research experiences -- both on campus at Texas A&M and in the chemical industry, facilitated by former students recruiting on-campus -- were fundamental to everything subsequent in my career path. There is not enough room here to describe how much I learned about the scientific process, problem-solving and professionalism.
"Essential to the research were the advising and mentoring I received from Prof. Batteas and Prof. Grunlan, as well as from several faculty and staff from the Department of Chemistry (especially Dr. Holly Gaede) and other programs (English, the Honors Program, the Public Policy Internship Program) . . . I just really can't imagine how things would have turned out without all the incredible people who have supported me along the way. They guided me to research, through research and on to graduate school. From here, I will launch my career in industry."
What advice can you offer current and future Texas A&M students as they consider different majors and whether or not to pursue Honors and/or related research programs?
"Practical experience is everything. Pick a major for which the requirements interest you and which will help you make progress toward your goals. Whatever you want to do -- or think
you want to do -- do it. Try it. Whatever you want to be, just begin, in whatever small way you can. Identify people who do interesting things or know interesting things, and learn as much as you can from them. Their perspectives will be invaluably wider than your own. Faculty and staff -- especially academic advisors -- are great people to talk to; even if you don't agree with their advice, you've learned something about yourself. Mentors and advisors can help you translate your interests into key words and help you connect to opportunities to pursue them, in coursework, research, internships, further education or jobs. Explore. You have the world (and the Internet) at your fingertips. Gig 'em!"
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Now in its 18th year, Student Research Week is a friendly competition that highlights both undergraduate and graduate research at Texas A&M, one of the country's top research universities. The weeklong celebration fosters an environment for students, faculty and administrators to learn about student research at Texas A&M and also gives students an opportunity to win numerous awards and cash prizes. To learn more about the week's schedule and specific events, go to http://srw.tamu.edu/
For more information about honors program study within the College of Science, go to http://www.science.tamu.edu/academics/honors.php
Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or firstname.lastname@example.org