Ryan Dodson '15

Ryan Dodson ‘15

When I came to Pomona, I had no idea that I might eventually become a Chemistry major – in fact, I was very set on the idea of pursuing public policy analysis. While I had enjoyed the physical sciences in high school, I was not well-prepared for Pomona academically, and my transition to college level Chemistry was very difficult. In the summer after my first year, though, I had the chance to stay on campus to do research in the Chemistry department with my future thesis advisor, Professor Charles Taylor.

Doing research at Pomona was what eventually convinced me that I would rather pursue a future in analytical chemistry than in getting a dual M.D./M.P.H. degree, as I had originally intended (possibly just for the large number of letters I could garner with such a move). I strongly enjoyed the chance to set goals, ask questions, and develop approaches to solve problems in a laboratory setting, and the work I did was incredibly fulfilling. Rather than merely entertaining me as a 10-week summer camp, my research opportunity served to help me elucidate my academic goals and priorities. It taught me skills which I could apply later, as necessary.

I continued to spend time in the lab throughout my time at Pomona, both during the academic year and during the summers. As I continued on in the major, I became close with nearly every staff and faculty member in the department. The degree to which professors were eager to help me both academically and professionally was truly astounding – the Chemistry department at Pomona proved itself to be both exceptionally nurturing and singularly supportive. I made close relationships with others both in my year and in other years through classes in the department.

I have had the chance to work on several different projects, including characterizing vanadium oxide crystal growth using the $550k electron microscope and X-ray diffraction, performing a soil sample analysis for a community garden in my home town to test for heavy metal contaminants, reverse-engineering the molecular structure of a polymer, and  optimizing a method to collect and analyze disease markers from breath. The Pomona College Chemistry department offers an outstanding degree of freedom for students to pursue their interests and to take full advantage of its resources, both in the lab and out of it.