Courtesy: Fairfield University

Chemistry in the Real World

Courtesy: Fairfield University
June 20, 2016

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Katie Brady still does not know what field of science she wants to pursue after graduation, she just knows she loves the subject. The women’s soccer junior will have an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that only eight students across the country this year will have. Out of over 100 applicants, Brady was chosen to take part in the 10-week Analytical Chemistry Research Undergraduate Experience (REU) held at the University of Notre Dame.

“I was very shocked and surprised because I knew that a lot of really smart and qualified people applied,” Brady said. “When I applied, I thought it was a big reach and very unlikely that it was actually going to happen. I was very excited and just wanted the semester to go faster so I could start the program.”

“It does not come as a surprise to me that was Katie was chosen,” Head Coach Jim O'Brien said. “Katie works hard in all that she does and this honor is well-deserved.”

It is that work ethic that has not only helped Brady learn more about the strategy and technical aspects of the soccer pitch, but also about the study and elements of science. A biochemistry major, Brady has seen that success in the classroom in just two years as a collegiate student. This past year, Brady was awarded with the Fairfield University Organic Chemistry Achievement Award and the Analytical Chemistry Achievement Award after earning the top GPA in both the class and the lab.

“I taught both the class and the lab this year and was very impressed with Katie’s performance,” Professor Amanda Harper-Leatherman said. “She is a very motivated and hard-working student.”

“I feel some sense of pride because it feels like all the hard work is paying off,” Brady said. “It is a nice reward but I think more of my focus is on doing well this summer at the program and working to maintain my grades and GPA as I continue into harder classes in the next couple of years.”

With her success in the classroom, Brady was nominated and eventually accepted into the Analytical Chemistry REU program at the University of Notre Dame where she will spend her summer in a professional laboratory setting. Each of the 10 students from across the country were assigned to one project which ranges from testing a polymer chip that can detect diseases and be connected through a smart phone, to new developments in 3D printing.

The individual project that Brady is working on is called the Pathogen Detection Project which aims to develop a method to detect pathogens such as bacteria and viruses that is quicker and more sensitive, so that it can detect smaller amounts. As confusing as this may sound to the average reader, it is a subject that is important to Brady who feels the experience of this project can help her find the exact passion in science she wants to pursue after graduation.

“In some aspects, this program is very similar to the type of environment that graduate school will be like,” Brady said. “It is also a really good way to gain more experience in the field, learn a lot of the instrumentation, new procedures and protocols that will help me in the future.”

“Our program boasts so many of these success stories in our 25 years,” Coach O’Brien said. “Katie is one of countless former soccer student-athletes who have taken advantage of their abilities by gaining experience in their chosen field before graduation.”

Brady will continue to work on this project and learn more about antibodies and the detection of pathogens throughout the 10-week project. With this experience where only a selective group of students can take advantage of, Brady hopes the learning and hands-on involvement can shape her future.”

“We are still in the early stages of the project where we are trying to take it one piece at a time to figure out what work and what doesn’t,” Brady said. “At some points we don’t even know exactly what we are doing. But that is a part of science.”

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