The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is proud of our alumni. Most (95%) of our recent majors in Chemistry and Biochemistry have gone on to top-tier graduate and professional schools to complete their training. Many of our alumni have advanced to positions of prominence in the pharmaceutical, polymer, health care, and specialty chemicals industries. A number of our alumni are currently faculty at other educational institutions. We are always happy to hear from our alumni about their experiences and careers since leaving Notre Dame.
Post-doctoral research scientist, Northwestern University
At Notre Dame, Jon Camden maintained a balance between his two loves: music and chemistry. Although he majored in both chemistry and music, he spent summers in the laboratory of chemistry professor Dennis Jacobs, conducting beam scattering experiments on silicon surfaces.
Interacting with graduate students and post-docs and dealing with issues on a high scientific level was a new experience for Camden. “I certainly got a flavor of what research was all about during my years at Notre Dame,” he said.
Camden wrote computer code for molecular dynamics simulations of hyperthermal ion collisions involving the scattering of high-energy neon atoms off silicon surfaces. His experiments, supported by the U.S. Air Force and the National Science Foundation, related to the understanding of the effect of atoms in a rarified atmosphere on a satellite in lower Earth orbit.
Camden received the College of Science Dean’s Award and the Outstanding Chemist Award. After graduating summa cum laude in music and chemistry, he went to graduate school at Stanford, studying under the pre-eminent physical chemistry scientist Richard N. Zare, Jacobs’ advisor in the mid-1980s. “Dennis got his Ph.D. with Dick in 1988, and I got my Ph.D. with Dick in 2005,” Camden said.
Now a post-doctorate at Northwestern University, Camden conducts Air Force-supported research. “All this would not have happened, obviously, if I had not done undergraduate research,” he said. “To this day, Dennis and I keep in touch. I really think undergraduates can have a lifetime relationship with their college professors if they are willing to foster it.”
Resident in radiation oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
In the late 1990s, a radically new approach to biochemistry was taking hold. The development of massively parallel special-purpose supercomputers and innovative mathematical and computational techniques made it possible to direct unprecedented computational power toward solving difficult scientific and technical problems in molecular simulation and design. That was also when Notre Dame undergraduate Susan McGovern found her research niche.
As a senior biochemistry and mathematics double major, she joined the computational chemistry laboratory of Sharon Hammes-Schiffer, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, where she modeled electronic transport.
“That was a particularly great experience,” she recalled. “Having that kind of exposure got me interested in biophysics and in using computational methods in chemistry and biology.”
It opened her eyes to what it means to do research every day, and the commitment that was required. “That was the most important thing that I learned. It’s only when you’re in an independent research project, where the burden is definitely upon you, that you really appreciate what it means to do research,” she said.
After graduation, McGovern joined the Shoichet Laboratory at Northwestern University to be involved in research using computational methods in drug design. After receiving her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at Northwestern in 2005, she began her residency training at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in the department of radiation oncology.
“By taking care of patients, I see new opportunities for research to make a difference in the lives of people with cancer. My long-term plans are to continue in the field of radiation oncology and develop drugs that make cancer treatments less toxic and more effective,” she said.