Problem-solving skills help E-town alums conduct research in sickness and in health
For some college students, graduation takes them down a career path they had not considered or one that differs from what they studied. Although Tim Goldkamp ’12, DJ Forster ’14 and Ashley Landis ’15 do not deal with magnesium studies in their current careers, their studies of the substance at Elizabethtown College provided problem-solving experiences that contribute to their everyday lives.
Jeffrey Rood, associate professor of chemistry at the College, has supervised research since he joined the school in 2009. This particular project was a study of magnesium and its potential use in eco-friendly production of plastic materials. According to Rood, the project dated back to Goldkamp’s time on campus, though the professor and some of his previous E-town students studied the element in 2009. Rood even published a paper on magnesium studies in 2011 that he said “framed the next steps” for Goldkamp, Forster and Landis.
Chemistry and biochemistry students at the College are required to conduct research by senior year, but many start earlier.
“There’s usually a piece you can find for a student to explore, depending on where he or she is in their career,” Rood said.
[The research] challenged me to use the knowledge that I had gained in the classroom to find solutions without the guidance of a procedure.”
Landis, currently a first-year medical student at Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine, is thankful for her research experience.
“It is easy to get tunnel vision in college, falling into the trap of not thinking outside the box and worrying only about the next test material,” Landis said. “Research gives a fresh perspective on where those correct answers come from that you are tested on day in and day out in chemistry, biology and physics.”
Goldkamp, a quality control chemist for Becton Dickinson, is also grateful for the skills learned through the studies. “[The research] challenged me to use the knowledge that I had gained in the classroom to find solutions without the guidance of a procedure,” Goldkamp said. “I use this now to troubleshoot instruments that aren’t functioning properly and to find improvements to methods that are currently being used in our lab.”
Forster, who went on to earn a master’s degree at Lehigh University, works as a chemist for Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute in New York City. As a research assistant, his job involves exploring new methods of treatment for a variety of cancers.
According to Rood, any study is about approach. “You have these tools that allow you to approach any scientific problem,” he said. “Though you’re on this very technical scientific project that’s very focused, the approach to research and thinking critically about a problem can be applied to a completely different type of project.”