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Christina Gale '13

Christina Gale ’13, a senior biochemistry major, began her undergraduate education in the Honor Scholar program of distinction. This program is open to students of all majors and emphasizes the importance of a liberal arts education. “It was a great experience for my first year of college. Everyone had very different interests and goals, so discussions in class were always very mentally stimulating”

After only a few semesters, however, Christina realized her interests were mostly within the realm of science. “I attended the DePauw poster session during the fall of my freshman year and talked to some of the students about their research and all I kept thinking was ‘I want to do that!’ So, I took a chance and applied to be a lateral-entry student in the Science Research Fellows.”

As a Science Research Fellow, students must complete two summers of research experiences. Christina spent her first summer working under Professor Jeff Hansen of the chemistry and biochemistry department. “I felt like the group guinea pig, anything that the professor wanted to try out, I would do. Time and time again the projects would flop. I learned the importance of failure quickly. I would have been frustrated, but the professor would always get me excited about a new project as soon as the last one ended.”

As the summer came to a close, one of her projects finally stuck. “I remember feeling relieved and excited. I decided to continue the project over the school year. I knew that this project could fail at any moment, but I wanted to see how far I could take it.” Christina’s project involved adapting a procedure from a paper and applying it to Professor Hansen’s work. The following fall, she participated in the Sectional ACS Poster Session in Indianapolis and the DePauw poster session.

Christina’s project revealed its true potential a couple months into the fall semester. The process she developed had surpassed the lab’s record for enantioselectivity. “I remember rechecking the results at least ten times before showing my professor. I had never expected success when I started doing research, but I was really proud of what I had accomplished that day.”

From that point on, Christina’s passion for her project continued to grow. So much so that she decided to dedicate another summer to working under Professor Hansen. “I think a big part of my motivation was that I had started the project. It was mine to nurture, and I wasn’t ready to let go of it yet. I felt that I still had so much to learn from Professor Hansen. Working a second summer also allowed me to take on another role within the lab. As a result of my experience, I became a mentor to the younger Science Research Fellows, which was an extremely rewarding experience.”

The second summer at DePauw Christina’s project produced even more promising results. It was an exciting time for her research. At the end of the summer, Christina participated in a poster session at the Eli Lilly Undergraduate Research Symposium.  “This experience gave me the opportunity to share my research with undergraduate students from all over Indiana and some of the research scientists at Eli Lilly. It opened my eyes to the world of organic synthesis outside of my lab.”

 Also during her second summer of research, Christina made the decision to apply to medical school. “I have been interested in pursuing medicine as long as I can remember and since I still wasn’t sure about a career in research, this was the logical next step for me.”

Christina is still working in Professor Hansen’s lab her senior year and plans to complete a thesis. The rare moments when Christina is out of the lab, she dedicates some of her time to Ultimate Frisbee. “I’ve always believe that you should take care of your mind, body and soul. Working in the lab stimulates my mind, but Frisbee allows me to unwind while running around with a phenomenal group of people. It was an important part of my experience at DePauw.”

Christina plans to go to medical school following her spring 2013 graduation from DePauw. She hopes that she will be able to spend some of her time in medical school on research. “I don’t think my research career will end at DePauw. Science Research Fellows was such an amazing experience, and I cannot imagine a future that leaves my passion for discovery behind.”

Overall, Christina feels like she has finally discovered herself. She doesn’t know what is in store for her next, but she hopes that it will be half as fulfilling as her experience at DePauw. “When I first started at DePauw University, I left all my options open. In the end, I think science chose me.”