Meet Our Students

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.


Theresa Heidenreich (2023) Majoring in Biochemistry with a Minor in Anthropology

Heidenreich

I've always been fascinated by science, learning, and problem solving, and biochemistry has been the perfect intersection of the three. I love to learn about how things work in the world around me, especially about biological systems at the molecular level. Studying biochemistry at Notre Dame has allowed me to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills in both the classroom and the undergraduate research lab.  I especially enjoyed the opportunity to pursue research using CRISPR technology to study vision in A. aegypti through the Molecular Cell Biology Research Special Studies Course with Dr. Michelle Whaley.  I am also involved in undergraduate research studying antimicrobial and antifungal peptides in the Lee Lab.  After graduation, I hope to go to graduate school for genetics or biomedical sciences to prepare for a career as a researcher and teaching professor. Teaching is a strong passion of mine, and I am excited by the opportunity to share my love of science with others as a teaching professor. Outside the classroom, I am a violinist in the Notre Dame Folk Choir, which is a liturgical choir that provides music ministry for Sunday Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and music outreach to the Notre Dame community. I also play the violin in the Notre Dame Symphony Orchestra and for Sunday Mass in my dorm, Lewis Hall. I've enjoyed participating in my dorm community, especially as the commissioner for Lewis Hall's Lucernarium, which is a candle-light night prayer service with music and liturgy. I love to play intramural sports of all kinds, run the lakes, and play volleyball and basketball with friends.


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 member of Prof. Amy Hixon’s actinide chemistry research group. My work investigates the chemistry of uranyl peroxide nanoclusters, which have envisioned applications in fuel generation, advanced separations, and nuclear waste management. Previously, I conducted computational research with Prof. William Schneider involving first-principles free energy calculations and kinetic modeling of reaction mechanisms. I have also loved working as a teaching assistant for the general chemistry labs. Outside of the lab, I am the treasurer for the Notre Dame Figure Skating Club, play piano for my residence hall, and am a member of the Glynn Family Honors Program. I am grateful that Notre Dame is a place where I can grow in faith, friendship, and scholarship as part of an incredibly caring community. After graduating from Notre Dame, I hope to pursue a doctorate in nuclear science or physical chemistry, conduct research seeking cleaner energy, and teach at the university level.


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 eventually specializing in Orthopedic Surgery, Anesthesiology, or Neurology. Outside the classroom, I serve on the executive board of the Compassionate Care in Medicine Club and am a member of the Pre-Professional Society. Whether it be hosting speakers from different fields of medicine, providing engaging service opportunities, or just sponsoring study breaks, both of these clubs greatly contributed to my personal and professional development. I like to stay active in my dorm community as well, serving as academic commissioner and playing on the intramural tackle football team for Knott Hall. I find that participating in activities like these help to foster greater friendships and provide a nice counterbalance to sometimes stressful academic workloads.

Feel free to contact me (moblich@nd.edu). I am happy to answer any questions you might have!


Daniel Gatewood (2024) Majoring in Biochemistry with a Minor in Bioengineering

Gatewood

I was attracted to Biochemistry after loving my science classes in high school and enjoying a biochemistry research project through a lab in my hometown before my senior year. Any biological system at the tissue scale or smaller is really interesting, so the biochemistry major felt right for me. I'm excited to begin my studies for my Bioengineering minor this fall. At first I thought I wanted to go to medical school, but now I think that graduate school is more attractive to me. I am considering a PhD in biochemistry, molecular biology, or biomolecular engineering, but I'm also thinking about going to law school for Patent law. At Notre Dame, I'm a member of the Notre Dame Glee Club and the secretary of the Notre Dame Undertones A Cappella group. I tutor freshman chemistry, serve as a Teaching Assistant for the intro biology laboratory, and conduct undergraduate research in the Clark lab studying protein folding.


Recent Graduates


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

Next Step: Member of ACE 29 - Teaching High School Science in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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.


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.