Student Interview: Summer Chemistry Research with Aaron Schmidt
This week's blogs are honing in on one of the awesome student opportunities we have at King's: summer research! Senior science students have to complete a senior research project as part of their program, but students can also be hired to do paid research over the summer.
Aaron Schmidt just graduated from King's this past term and has been around the school all summer working on a project in the chemistry lab, so I asked him a few questions about it.
What year/program are you in?
"I graduated with a B.Sc. in Chemistry with a business minor."
What research project are you working on? What is it exactly that you’re doing every day?
"I am working on a project that is looking at the thermodynamic properties of synthetic rubber polymers that can be more easily recycled than conventional rubber polymer found in vehicle tires. What this entails is reading papers, synthesizing the rubber molecules following a 'recipe' found in the papers and then confirm it is the correct structure in an NMR spectrometer (similar to MRI machines but for molecules). We react the molecules with a catalyst at different temperatures then clean up all the glassware. The end result is a spreadsheet with a lot of data which we then plot to get a trend."
What interests you the most about the research you are doing?
"I am interested most in process design and working to improve the experimental method. It feels great to find a better way to do something or get really consistent results---most of the time its utilizing techniques I’ve acquired over the course of my degree. Although the work itself is important, it's far from being real world applicable making the meaning of the results ambiguous and unexciting."
Is it more of an individual research project, are professors around to help guide you, or are you working with other students?
"The project started as a senior thesis team of two students and a supervisor (Dr. Kris Ooms). Since then it has had multiple students working on it either as senior thesis (myself) or a summer research job. This summer I trained a first-year student to take it over as a summer project. Working as a team is nice as the workload is cut in half, and often times the other person will catch mistakes if they aren’t making them."
What is your favorite thing about this research position?
"I enjoy the people I’m working with. They make it a very chill work environment even though the work can be challenging and frustrating at times."
Do you find this summer research opportunity a useful way to enhance your abilities toward your future career? Why or why not?
"Not in regards to marketable skills unfortunately. I don’t plan on being anywhere near a lab or chemistry, so it might be a one-off job. That being said, there are lots of non-specific skills like working as a team, task management/organization, and attention to detail that will carry over into what I want to pursue (aviation)."
What is one piece of advice you would give a student who is thinking about doing a summer research project at King’s?
"Bring treats every once in a while to work. People love treats and people who bring treats. Also, have a humble attitude and enjoy the job for what it is, not a means to an end or a resume buffer. Enjoy getting to know the people you work with and the profs (they are more chill in the summer and you can be real friends almost)."
If you readers have any questions about opportunities like this at King's, or details about any of our programs, don't hesitate to talk to one of our admissions counselors!