Meet Our Students

Erin Fennessy (2022) Majoring in Biochemistry with a supplementary Major in French and Francophone Studies and a Minor in the Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy

Erin Fennessy

I came into my freshman year at ND with "biochemistry" in mind specifically because I was lucky enough to work in a biochemistry lab at UW-Madison, the flagship university in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, as a part of discerning what I might want to study in college. The Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry was most attractive to me because of the smaller, dedicated classes for chem and biochem majors in our intro chemistry sequence. I've been able to work very closely with my professors and peers and foster a really unique community in the classroom. Even when I decided at the end of my sophomore year that the path I'm on probably doesn't require as rigorous and specific of a curriculum as what is provided in the biochemistry program, I couldn't give up the tight-knit community of students and professors I had spent two years investing in and feeling welcomed into.

Outside of the classroom, I worked for two semesters as an undergrad research assistant in the Del Valle lab. After my first year, I participated in the Center for Social Concerns' Summer Service Learning Program (SSLP)as a camp counselor for a children's camp on Tybee Island, GA -- it was an incredible summer job. I currently work at the tri-campus student-run newspaper, The Observer, as a news writer and associate photo editor. Most of my extracurricular time, however, is spent in my role as the President of the Notre Dame Women's Boxing Club (Baraka Bouts). The club raises money for the Holy Cross Missions in Uganda via our annual Baraka Bouts boxing tournament.

As of right now, my plans are to pursue a career in science journalism or science communications. I have worked for The Observer since I was a first year, and interned with Popular Science, the former print magazine, during spring semester 2021. I'm very invested in improving the quality of communication in the spaces that connect scientists, the media, and the general public and hope to make a career out of it, especially in light of the risk communication and public policy challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. My background in biochemistry has already been very helpful in covering science and scientists, even from non-biochemistry angles.

Alyssa Arbuiso (2022) Majoring in Biochemistry with a Minor in Musical Theater

Alyssa Arbuiso Web

Like the typical Notre Dame student, I possess an interest in a diverse set of academic disciplines. This made it difficult for me to pick a major during my senior year of high school. I have always enjoyed science, both because I find it deeply satisfying to understand the principles which shape the world around me, and because scientific research allows me to creatively apply my knowledge to improve the health and lives of others. Yet, because the scientific realm is so rapidly expanding, progressing, and evolving, I was apprehensive that, as a biochemistry major, I would be forced to leave my other interests behind in order to succeed at science. Notre Dame’s biochemistry major is difficult, but at Notre Dame, an institution which promotes well-roundedness and balance, I feel deeply rewarded and challenged by the rigorous biochemistry courses while I continue learning to be a well-rounded person and scholar. Biochemistry allows me to study two subjects that fascinate me—chemistry and biology—and understand the ways in which these two fields are related. Additionally, the small size of the biochemistry major allows me to more personally know my professors, advisors and peers, and encourages the biochemistry students to collaborate and network rather than compete. After graduating from Notre Dame, I intend to become an MD who is involved with clinical trials or an MD/PhD. This would allow me to use my scientific knowledge to help others as both an innovator and implementer.

Many activities that I engage in at Notre Dame progress me toward my career goals. During my freshman year, I joined the Baker Lab at Harper Cancer Research Institute and began researching the structural features of peptide-MHC complexes which augment peptide-MHC complex immunogenicity. This knowledge can be applied to better develop cancer vaccines and engineered T-cell immunotherapies. My time in lab has been enriching, the lab staff are welcoming, helpful, and inspiring, and research has served as a wonderful complement to my classroom learning thus far. Additionally, I serve as the president of Aging with Grace, a club whose mission is to educate both the elderly and vulnerable youth about the aging process in a manner that allows them to age happily and gracefully. Aside from science, I am involved with La Casa de Amistad, an institution in South Bend which aims to help immigrants in South Bend transition happily into their lives in the United States. I also play piano for the Pasquerilla East Hall dorm mass and hope to further my involvement in music/musical theater throughout my future at Notre Dame.

Hannah Collins (2022) Majoring in Chemistry with Minors in Studio Art and Energy Studies

Hannah Collins Web

I am passionate about chemistry because of the aspects of creativity and ingenuity involved. Using experiments and a scientific mindset to learn new things about our world is a very special thing to be able to do. I also appreciate the deeper understanding of the world around me gained from studying chemistry, especially in conjunction with studying visual art. Down the road, I hope to combine my interests in art and science. I plan to go into chemistry research related to renewable energy, most likely solar. I look forward to the extremely pertinent and real-world applications of renewable energy and the possibilities this field has for economic development. I am planning to study abroad in a country where renewable energy is an important field and look forward to exploring international career options. However, I don't feel limited to research; I hope to have multiple careers and spend time in academia and as an artist.

Aside from academics at Notre Dame, I am also a part of the Transpose Dance Collective, which puts on two productions a year in unconventional venues. I am employed on campus in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center as a stagehand and in the scenery shop. I have also been involved in Community Based Learning and projects through the Center for Social Concerns with my Spanish class last semester, in which my classmates and I volunteered in the immigrant community of South Bend. I also absolutely love football games!

David Haungs (2023) Majoring in Chemistry and Political Science

David Haungs

I was attracted to chemistry by the discipline's use of rigorous mathematical and scientific methods to investigate natural phenomena. Chemistry has produced incredible practical advances for society, which likewise attracts me to the field, but just as important for me is the search for a deeper understanding of the world in its own right. This focus of Notre Dame as a whole, which promises as part of its mission statement "the pursuit and sharing of truth for its own sake," is an indelible part of the University's Catholic and intellectual character which drew me to study here. Additionally, the focus on teaching chemistry and biochemistry majors through great professors in small, specifically designated class sections - even for intro classes - is one I have appreciated. Finally, the availability of research for undergraduates is unmatched. I gained my first research experience in my very first year simply by asking a professor to join his lab, where I still work today.

During my time at Notre Dame, I am working towards a career goal of practicing patent law, particularly pertaining to inventions in the chemical industry. For this reason, in addition to my chemistry classes and research, I am also majoring in political science, as some of my activities on campus reflect. I conduct research in the lab of Dr. Seth Brown, investigating the synthesis of theoretically significant transition metal complexes and the mechanisms behind their formation. As part of this project, with support from the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE), I conducted research full time over the Winter Session in 2021, and soon plan to seek publication of the results of my work thus far. This research opportunity became available to me as part of another activity I am involved in, CUSE's Sorin Scholars program. Additionally, over the summer of 2021, I am continuing my chemistry research in the chemical industry, where I will work for the Lubrizol Corporation of Berkshire Hathaway, performing organic synthesis to graft antioxidants to hydrocarbon membranes to improve the durability of fuel cells in which they are used. At school, I also serve as Judicial Council President, overseeing the judicial branch of the Student Union by administering elections, hearing cases of misconduct, providing support to students accused of OCS violations, and enacting constitutional reform. I also serve as an editor of Beyond Politics, the University's undergraduate political science journal. Finally, in the 2021-2022 academic year, I am an Undergraduate Research Fellow for the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, where I intend to study the legal and economic ramifications of judicial decisions relating to patent law alongside an expert Faculty Fellow.

Jenna Kautzky (2023) Majoring in Chemistry

Jenna Kautzky

I graduated from high school knowing I wanted to study an area of STEM which could be used for a future medical degree, but what attracted me to the chemistry major at Notre Dame were the countless opportunities to become involved with undergraduate research and put classroom topics into practice. I also felt as though pursuing a degree in chemistry would allow for many potential career paths in the future. After graduation, I hope to study medicine and practice in rural or otherwise underserved areas. Currently, I am quite interested in practicing anesthesiology while pursuing research relevant to this career path. While at Notre Dame, I have been involved with the University of Notre Dame Chorale. The Chorale is Notre Dame’s sole concert choir, and I find that it allows me to be involved with a supportive community and devote my time to something not related to science. I also partake in undergraduate research as a member of the Ashfeld Group. Currently, I am working on two projects. The first pertains to the synthesis of natural product n-heterocyclic molecules. The second is focused around synthesis of small molecule inhibitors of DYRK1A protein-protein interactions, which have been linked to disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease and Down Syndrome.

Audrey Miles (2023) Double majoring in Chemistry with Computing and Theology

Audrey Miles

I have always been curious about the world around me, and I love to learn. Though I was initially unsure how I could narrow my interests to choose a single career path, my high school coursework quickly made it clear that I needed to study chemistry. Precise but still creative, chemistry reveals the beautiful complexity of the world and works to understand those complexities through problem solving. In choosing a college, I was looking for a rigorous science program that still allowed for flexibility in exploring my other interests. Though I was certain that I wanted to study chemistry, I still loved so many other disciplines. Where successful applications to other elite universities seemed to require that students present themselves as having streamlined interests in a single subject, Notre Dame was one of the few schools that welcomed the desire to pursue many passions and learn for learning’s sake. The chemistry program itself is designed to encourage this kind of exploration. As a Chemistry with Computing major, courses intended for Computer Science students are built into my program of study. This combination program is incredibly flexible, allowing me to discover a love for programming and a potential interest in pursuing a career as a computational chemist. In addition to this combination program, I have been able to explore a wide variety of potential second majors -everything from physics to French, and math to environmental engineering.Ultimately, I fell in love with theology. At Notre Dame, I have the unique opportunity to both learn about the minute mechanics of the processes that govern our world and ask the big questions about why those details matter. On any given day, I may spend my morning writing a code that models a chemical process, and my afternoon talking about love and grace and beauty and truth. Studying a hard science like chemistry allows me to answer questions like “how” and “what,” and theology reminds me that the “why?” is just as important

Outside of my coursework, I conduct undergraduate research as a part of Prof. William Schneider’s computational environmental chemistry and chemical engineering group. My research involves first-principles free energy calculations, quantum mechanics of surface catalysis, and kinetic modeling of reaction mechanisms. I will also be joining Prof. Amy Hixon’s research group, working to optimize the synthesis of actinide-containing compounds for use in fuel generation, separations, and nuclear waste management. Beyond research, I am a teaching assistant for the General Chemistry laboratories, play piano and organize liturgical music for my residence hall, serve as treasurer and compete with the Notre Dame Figure Skating Club, am a member of the Glynn Family Honors Program,and am involved with several Bible studies and an off-campus church. Notre Dame is a place where I am able to grow in faith, friendship, and scholarship as part of an incredibly passionate and caring community. After graduating from Notre Dame, I am currently interested in pursuing a doctorate in physical or inorganic chemistry. I hope to become a professor and manage my own research lab dedicated to clean energy and environmental preservation.

Michael Oblich (2024) Majoring in the Neuroscience Concentration of Biochemistry with a Minor in Compassionate Care in Medicine

Michael Oblich

I came in as a Neuroscience & Behavior major, but after my first two semesters of chemistry at Notre Dame, I had a slight change of heart. I had great experiences with the chemistry faculty and they helped foster within me a strong passion to go deeper and learn more in the field, despite its difficulty. The idea of using chemical principles to gain a better understanding of biological processes was (and still is) very appealing to me as someone hoping to pursue a career in medicine. The overlap of the biochemistry major with the Neuroscience concentration and Compassionate Care in Medicine minor, as well as the excellent preparation for medical school, solidified my choice to switch into the major.

After graduation, I plan to continue on to medical school, hopefully specializing in Orthopedic Surgery or Anesthesiology. Outside the classroom, I am a member of the Compassionate Care in Medicine and Red Cross Clubs, as well as the Pre-Professional Society. From hosting speakers from different fields of medicine, to hosting blood drives, or just sponsoring study breaks, all of these clubs helped contribute to my personal and professional development in my first year on campus. Additionally, I am involved in dorm athletics such as weekly section football, and hope to get involved with more intramural sports as they begin to open back up. I find that participating in activities like these help to foster greater friendships with my fellow students and provide a nice counterbalance to heavy academic workloads.

Feel free to contact me ( I am happy to answer any questions you might have!

Recent Graduates

Sydney Louden (2021) Majoring in Chemistry and Environmental Sciences

Next Step: Ph.D. in Geosciences at the University of Rochester

Sydney Louden Web

I started my freshman year at Notre Dame as a chemistry major because I really enjoyed chemistry in high school. I was drawn to Notre Dame’s chemistry program because it offers many opportunities to explore the different fields within chemistry. The program has both depth and variety in the core classes and faculty research and has really allowed me to find what interests me. I quickly found that I was very passionate about ecology and environmental sciences in addition to chemistry. The chemistry major has offered me the flexibility to be a chemistry and environmental science double major. The flexibility in the program is also allowing me to spend a semester studying abroad in Perth, Australia. I will graduate in 2021, and I plan to attend graduate school. I want to pursue a career in research, specifically in the fields of marine chemistry and marine ecology.

Outside of my classes, I volunteer in the classrooms at the Early Childhood Development Center on campus. I am also conducting undergraduate research with the Jones aquatic ecology lab. I have been able to combine my chemistry and environmental science interests by researching the role that methane fluxes in lakes plays in the global carbon cycle. With the Jones lab, I have also been able to spend the summer at Notre Dame’s field research station in Land O'Lakes, Wisconsin.

Sara Rani Reddy (2021) Majoring in Chemistry with a Supplemental Major in French

Next Step: Fulbright Scholar - English Teaching Assistant in Luxembourg '21-'22; Master’s in French and Romance Philology at Columbia University '22-'24

Sara Rani Reddy Web

Outside of the classroom, I’ve enjoyed being an editor for the Journal of Undergraduate Research and the Glynn Journal Arcadian Dialogues, where I am both a Science and Humanities editor. The Chem and Biochem Club and the South Asian Student Association have helped me make great connections to my classmates. I am also a part of the Glynn Family Honors Program and the Stamps Scholars Program on campus. On the research front, there are so many opportunities on campus to choose from. I used my interest in writing and editing to do research in the Humanities as an editorial and research assistant for Professor Eileen Hunt Botting. I helped Professor Botting conduct research on Human Rights, Genetic Engineering, and Artificial Intelligence (Fall 2018) as well as edited chapters of her new book: The Wollstonecraftian Mind, ed. Sandrine Berges, Eileen Hunt Botting, and Alan Coffee (forthcoming, Routledge, 2019). Another of the many wonderful things about the chemistry major at Notre Dame is that the curriculum is quite open for students to take all of the required classes for any graduate degrees they wish to pursue. In the future, I hope to explore the field of medicine, combining clinical experience and bench-to-bedside research in order to improve patient treatment options.Once I took my first chemistry course as a sophomore in high school, I was hooked. I knew that I had found the field of study for me. My high school chemistry teacher would perform the most fascinating demos. I filmed them on my phone to share with my friends and family, and as they watched, I gave a play-by-play explanation of the chemical significance of each reaction. My excitement grew with each wondrous chemical process I viewed and made me more curious about the vast field of chemistry as it applies to almost every aspect of daily life. My favorite demo was in our entropy unit: mixing two solids, ammonium thiocyanate and barium hydroxide, to produce a liquid (technically, a solution of barium thiocyanate in the water that is produced during the reaction). This reaction is an example of a spontaneous endothermic reaction driven by entropy, and as I learned more about this process, I could see the subject of chemistry jump off the pages of my textbook. My passion for chemistry is driven by the fact that it can explain the most amazing phenomena that defy regular logic, like mixing two solids to get a liquid and that it can be used to solve the most mind-boggling of problems that exist in our world today. I love the chemistry program at Notre Dame because it is both challenging and engaging, but flexible enough to allow for a second major. I’ve studied French since middle school and love learning more about the French language and culture. So I worked with my wonderful advisors in the chemistry and biochemistry department and the Department of Romance Languages to design a curriculum that is unique to me and that accommodates both of my interests.

Clarissa Younkle (2021) Majoring in Biochemistry and Anthropology

Next Step: Accelerated BS of Nursing program at the University of Washington with the intent of becoming a Nurse Practitioner

Clarissa Younkle Web

As many do, I choose biochemistry as my major because of my love for both biology and chemistry, but I stayed a biochemistry major because of the curriculum, faculty, and community of the major. I am not sure yet what I want to do in the future with my major, but there are many options to consider. I am currently looking at either attending law school, or graduate school for biochemistry or anthropology. At Notre Dame I am involved in several things on campus. I currently do research in the biochemistry lab of Dr. Bradley Smith where I do organic synthesis, as well as the Health, Hormone, and Human Behavior lab of Dr. Lee Gettler in the anthropology department. Additionally, I have worked as a camp counselor at the Notre Dame DNA Learning Center, I have participated in the Urban Plunge program with the Center of Social Concerns, and I am very involved in my hall community through inter-hall sports and hall government.A main goal of mine upon entering college was to gain an international experience, which was made possible by my biochemistry major. I spent this past summer researching organic synthesis in a lab at the University of Heidelberg, and in the fall I will be studying abroad at the National University of Singapore. My biochemistry major has not only allowed for the flexibility to go abroad, but has also given me many opportunities I would not otherwise have.