Outstanding Graduates Chemistry
Many words could be written about Winston Gee’s ('21) intelligence and character. He brings an unassuming wisdom to everything he does. He is a top-notch thinker, never settling for face value. He always pushes to find deeper meaning. As a student, he asks the best questions and has achieved an impeccable record. As a chemist, he has an endless curiosity and a high level of determination and initiative. His research project has been shaped into something better under his careful questioning and inventiveness. As a citizen, he’s shown a reconciliatory heart and a refreshing ability to listen and engage in dialogue. He has all around shown the ability to perform at a graduate-level and is unquestionably ready for the next phase of his career in graduate school.
Marissa Condie’s ('20) motivation and initiative shined in the major honors research that she undertook this year. Very ingeniously Marissa entirely on her own initiative, devised an analytical procedure to quantify the relative number of molecules that was undergoing different avenues of relaxation from the excited states. Then she showed her leadership skills by coming up with weekly research goals, communicating these with each member of the research group and mentoring the newer students in the laboratory procedure. Marissa always downplays her accomplishments and that makes her a natural leader. In January 2019, she attended the Pacific Conference on Spectroscopy and Dynamics and defended her research before professors, post-docs and graduate students from leading research universities.
Nick Taylor and Ana Bulger
Nick Taylor '19 and Ana Bulger '19 won the Outstanding Graduate Award in Chemistry. Ana Bulger, who finished her Westmont program with a 4.0 GPA, will attend UCLA to pursue a doctorate in chemistry with focus in organic synthetic chemistry. “She has transitioned from student to teacher, from receiver to discoverer of knowledge,” says professor Michael Everest, chair of the chemistry department. “She has been a conscientious and dependable teacher’s assistant for two years of organic chemistry and an impressively creative designer of syntheses in class. But she can most often be found in the lab, where she is the go-to person for both technique and experimental design questions.”
She presented her major honors work on the borylation of aryl sulfamates at last April’s National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Orlando, Florida.
“The most significant part of my experience at Westmont has been growing my relationships with the faculty and my peers over the past four years,” she says. “Westmont has given me the unique opportunity of mentorship from my professors. This kind of interaction is often difficult for undergraduates at larger schools. It was through learning from these amazing faculty that I was able to thrive by asking questions and that I was inspired to become a chemist myself.”
Nick Taylor, a double major in chemistry and philosophy, served as president of the pre-health club and volunteered to teach science to elementary school children. He hopes to attend medical school to pursue a career as a pediatric oncologist. “He is a brilliant chemist and a deeply thoughtful philosopher who combines these into a cheerful and humble servant-leader,” says Michael Everest, chair of the chemistry department.
He completed a major honors project, “Meta-Arylation of Aryl Carbamates,” which he presented at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society with professor Amanda Silberstein. “Around the lab, he is known for his unfailing good nature and as the indispensable solver of practical problems,” Silberstein says.
“Not only have I learned a lot, but I have met some amazing people in the process,” he says.
To better understand the diet of the Native American Myaamia tribe of Oklahoma, Andrew Sawyer '18 conducted research on the amount of crude protein and crude fat present in Myaamia corn. He says the most valuable part of his research was the relationships he developed with professors. “The Westmont chemistry department focuses on developing the student as a whole, both the mind and the soul,” he says. “During summer research, I not only learned how to be a good researcher, but also how to be a good person.” During his time at Westmont, he shared lunch or coffee with more than 25 different faculty members from various departments. “Westmont is unique not only in providing students with a top-notch education but in giving them the opportunity to learn from and be mentored by professors who genuinely care for students’ overall well-being,” he says. He hopes to pursue a career in dentistry.
Nicole Marsh '17 has been an exemplary student and researcher. She has routinely been a top student in her chemistry classes, including her first semester at Westmont when she enrolled in organic chemistry and scored in the 100th percentile on the standardized American Chemical Society exam. It is rare for first year students to take organic chemistry and Nicole’s performance was exceptional! Nicole has served the Chemistry Department as a problem set grader and as the Chemistry Club president. She is graduating in three years with a double major in chemistry and biology. Nicole is currently completing a major honors project involving protein aggregation in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. After graduation, Nicole plans to pursue a Ph.D. She also hopes to continue pursuing two of her favorite hobbies, martial arts and traveling to Arab countries.
One-hundred and thirty words cannot accurately reflect the extraordinary person and chemist who is Karli Holman '17. Her superlative academic record barely scratches the surface. A creative problem solver, Karli developed a new chemical method for her major honors project and was published for her contributions to a second project. Karli’s dedication and sheer joy in the learning process are truly inspiring, both to her professors and her students. It shows in her enthusiasm in class; it shows in her commitment to teaching underclassmen organic chemistry, both as a TA and as a tutor; and it shows in her excited conversations about what she just learned. As she pursues her love of learning in pursuing a Ph.D., we know that she will have a positive impact wherever she is placed; she certainly did here.
Audrene McMahon '16 has been an exemplary student, researcher, and teaching assistant. She has routinely been a top student in her chemistry classes and has shown maturity in her writing. Her excellent chemical research resulted in the publication of a journal article involving protein aggregation. As a teaching assistant, Audrene has displayed patience and kindness towards her students, while maintaining high expectations for their work. In addition to completing a chemistry and biology double major, Audrene is graduating with a mathematics minor, and studied abroad in Ireland for a semester. After graduation, Audrene plans to pursue a medical degree from Loma Linda University. The Chemistry Department has no doubt that Audrene will be a wonderful and compassionate doctor. She has a positive outlook on life and is very sensitive to the needs of others.
Aaron Wilk '16 is the most outstanding student I have seen in my 26 years as a professor at Westmont,” says Dr. Nivaldo Tro. He made his first impression early. On the National American Chemical Society Standardized Final Exam in General Chemistry he scored a perfect 70/70. (This is an exam on which you can miss a dozen questions and still be in the top 10th percentile on the national distribution.) Since then, he has gotten an A (and likely the top score) in every class he has taken. He thinks like an accomplished scientist, writes like a scholar, and communicates so clearly and so engagingly that you can’t help but be drawn in. He is also an accomplished concert pianist and a triple major. He has been accepted to nearly every program to which he has applied and will begin Stanford’s M.D./ Ph.D. program next fall. We can’t wait to see what he accomplishes. Congratulations Aaron!
Elizabeth Simoneit’s ('15) excellent academic record does scant justice to her abilities inside and outside the classroom. In the latter she is distinguished not merely for her rigor and academic excellence as a double major in both Chemistry and Spanish but also by an enthusiasm for learning, good judgment, warmth, compassion, and appropriate self-confidence. Unsurprisingly, she is loved and respected in the chemistry department as a friend, classmate, laboratory teaching assistant, and researcher of photoactive nanoparticles. However, she is perhaps better known on campus for her devotion to serving others, culminating in her co-directing the 2015 Potter’s clay mission trip. Elizabeth has already been admitted to several medial schools and we expect she will become a thoughtful and gracious leader as a practitioner of medicine.
Rebecca Winchenbaugh '15 (Becky) is one of those students who comes along once or twice in a professor’s career. She has more than excelled in her chemistry major and math minor courses with eight A+ grades, as well as scoring at the 100th percentile level on several National Chemistry Exams given at the end of our courses. She loves to help others and has demonstrated this (along with her abilities in chemistry) by being the key help session teaching assistant in both honors general and organic chemistry. Becky was able to complete a major honors project in her junior year, allowing her to attend University College London last fall to study medical anthropology. She plans on merging her love of scientific research and medicine by attending medical school and obtaining both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees.