One of the strengths of Appalachian’s Department of Chemistry is the faculty who devote all their teaching to undergraduates, plus offer them opportunities to conduct research together.
As a student, Chris Eubanks ’13 explored new ways to produce hydrogen for fuel cells with his mentor, Dr. Michael Hambourger. At the time, he said the experience was boosting his self-confidence.
Now a Ph.D. candidate in chemistry at Duke University, Eubanks works in Dr. Amanda Hargrove’s lab as part of an interdisciplinary team of chemists and biologists using organic chemistry tools to study the structure and function of long noncoding RNAs. He is working to create a technique to increase the speed and efficiency to determine RNA structure, which would allow scientists to find potential drug targets in diseases that have no current therapeutics.
What prepared him for this opportunity?
“The classes in chemistry (at Appalachian) were able to give me a good base knowledge, but the accessibility to independent research and having three years of research before coming into a graduate program was very helpful. Also, having many possibilities to apply for different grants helped increase my scientific writing,” Eubanks said.
“The Department of Chemistry was very supportive. I knew almost all the faculty,” Eubanks said. “They respected me as a person – knowing what classes I was taking, being interested in possible career paths, and always being free to help with general questions or letters of recommendations...
“The advice was always helpful, and there were a couple of times when I was worried about graduate school during my senior year and I had faculty help me with advice that got them through graduate school.”
Appalachian is “very good at professor-student interactions,” he said. “At a larger school, or a school with a graduate school, you will not see professors very much and it is hard for an undergraduate to know professors more than by name.”
Eubanks also praised the Department of Chemistry’s weekly seminars as “great for networking. I was able to go to lunch with the seminar speakers a few times, and I know of at least two who I have met again here at Duke and they remembered me,” he said. “The importance of networking cannot be overstated, and with the ability to start early as an undergraduate was very helpful.”