Empowering Students toward Scientific Advancement

September 15, 2017

“The most important piece of success is keeping a strong attitude in the face of setbacks.”

“He’s fearless,” says Joe Reczek, Associate Professor of Chemistry, in describing his research mentee, Jarrett Dillenburger ’17. He brings a curiosity, a creativity, in how to execute the experiments.”

Reczek was part of Dillenburger’s collaborative mentoring team, along with Annabel Edwards, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Dillenburger, now a chemistry PhD candidate at Penn State, studied the dynamic assembly of floating films as potential organic semiconductors from the surface of water. It may seem remarkable that one chemistry student had two dedicated mentors, but at Denison, it’s just a regular day, thanks to alumni and friends who support academic innovation.

Students get the opportunity to work with their professors on research—and that pays off in a big way. “Doing research in chemistry and biochemistry,” says Reczek, “is the single most impactful way for students to learn and become scientists.”

Here’s how it works: science faculty come up with an idea or theory, then offer their guidance and mentorship to students who are interested in doing research. Those students then get into the lab and do some hard work and tough thinking.

“The most important piece of success,” says Reczek, “is keeping a strong attitude in the face of setbacks.”

Dillenburger had to get creative to make his research work. He used Denison’s 3D printers to make a machine that could lower onto the surface of the water without disrupting it, allowing him to transfer fascinating samples of the floating film for analysis. His small invention proved viable enough to convince Edwards and Reczek to invest in a commercial machine that would do the same thing, with even better results.

Your support for academic innovation inspires and empowers burgeoning scientists like Dillenburger to think—and execute—creatively in the name of scientific advancement.