Independent Minds, Working Together
Kaitlynn Wilson

Kaitlynn Wilson received an award for undergraduate research from the Society for Applied Spectroscopy.

 

Kaitlynn Wilson Receives Award for Undergraduate Research

Society for Applied Spectroscopy recognizes recent graduate

June 13, 2012 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Kaitlynn Wilson, who graduated last month from The College of Wooster with a degree in chemistry, has received an award for undergraduate research from the Society for Applied Spectroscopy. The award recognizes exceptional research in the field of spectroscopy, as well as general academic excellence. Wilson, a graduate of Wooster High School and now a resident of Ann Arbor, Mich., received a $500 honorarium and a year’s subscription to the journal Applied Spectroscopy.

“It was great to see an organization not only acknowledging scientific success, but also funding it through scholarships, awards, and grants,” said Wilson, who was nominated for her work on her Senior Independent Study (I.S.) project (Wooster’s nationally acclaimed undergraduate research experience in which a student works one-on-one with a faculty mentor throughout the academic year to produce a thesis, performance, or exhibition of artwork).

“(Kaitlynn’s) I.S. used spectroscopic method, both on campus and at the University of Minnesota (supported by Copeland funding), to study the photochemistry of a model electron transfer system,” said Sarah Schmidtke, assistant professor of chemistry at Wooster. “The molecules she studied are derivatives of the common sunscreen active ingredient PABA (para-amino benzoic acid).” Wilson synthesized the molecules to see how the photochemistry of the system (which is what makes it commercially useful) is affected by different substituent groups, according to Schmidtke.

“(Kaitlynn) was extremely dedicated and went well beyond expectations for a senior thesis,” said Schmidtke. “She truly embraced the project and took full ownership of the work over the course of (her) I.S. I was amazed by the scope of the work she carried out and the range of chemistry she was able to accomplish.”

Wilson was equally excited to work with Schmidtke. “She was a great mentor and adviser,” said Wilson. “She provided great insight, pointed my project and me in the right direction, guided my focus, and was patient throughout the entire learning process.”

In reflecting on her four years at Wooster, Wilson said it was a perfect match, and helped her to develop intellectually as well as find her own path in the world. “I honestly cannot put into words how my Wooster education has helped in my success,” she said. “Prior to coming to Wooster, I had a different career path and was fairly set in my ways. Wooster not only introduced me to chemistry and allowed me to pursue my varying interests, but it also allowed me to push my limits and truly challenge myself. The Independent Study process was one of my best experiences at Wooster…Without the great faculty at The College of Wooster, I honestly would not be the person that I am today.”

Wilson will continue her studies this fall in a Ph.D. program in physical chemistry at the University of Michigan.

- Story by Libby Fackler '13