Student Grace Rout Selected to Work in a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Organic Chemistry Lab Through Snyder Scholars Program

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Every year, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign announces the selections for its Snyder Scholars Progam, a fellowship where students are hosted at the university to work with their organic chemistry faculty for 10 weeks during the summer, according to UIUC’s website. UIUC’s chemistry program is ranked ninth in the country, according to a 2023 U.S. News & World Report ranking. Among the few selected as Snyder Scholars, University of Indianapolis junior chemistry and biology major Grace Rout said she was excited to hear the news that she had been one of them.

Photo by Allison Cook Junior chemistry and biology major Grace Rout was selected to work with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign organic chemistry faculty through its Snyder Scholars fellowship. The program is ranked ninth in the country.

“This program is specific for students interested in biochemistry and taking organic chemistry and the sort of chemistry background and applying it to biology,” Rout said. “It was sent to me by Dr. Burnell because I had told him that I was interested in biochemistry and since eventually, in the future, I would like to go on to get my Ph.D. And I’ve been looking at biochemistry-related programs, it was a perfect fit for things that I’ve been wanting to do in the future.”

Associate Professor of Chemistry Joe Burnell said Rout has never wavered from her interest in biochemistry in her time thus far at UIndy. When an email appeared in his inbox asking for applicants to the Snyder Scholars Program, he said he immediately thought of her.

“… The letter of recommendation was easy to write because she’s been so proactive about her own preparation,” Burnell said. “She’s so positive in class and she’s curious. Right now, she’s taking biochemistry as an honors class. And so, to get honors credit for the regular class, we have to come up with some extra project, right? She’s doing investigations of a class of receptors in the brain that we don’t get to usually talk about. So in trying to keep up with her, I’ve had been having to read a bunch bout this, and I was learning so much. There’s a whole other class of these receptors that I knew nothing about. That I only learned because of Grace’s curiosity.”

According to Rout, her interest in chemistry was sparked by her high school chemistry teacher. To her, it was one of the only classes where there were no days she dreaded going.

“I wanted to pursue it in college,” Rout said. “But I knew that I liked more of the application of it. On the biological side, I wanted to do something that would directly impact people, but I’m not much of a people person so I didn’t want to do clinical. So I started leaning more towards neuroscience-related things. And then I, since taking organic chemistry and biochemistry, I’ve leaned more into that area of things and a more general interest in really any area of it.”

Rout said Burnell has been a big help throughout not only the Snyder Scholars Program application process but other programs she has applied to during undergrad as well. When she felt confused about what she wanted to do, Rout said Burnell was there to help her try and figure out what she wanted to do in the future as a career. With the help of Burnell and other chemistry department faculty, Rout said she now has a chance to work in a bigger lab at a larger institution during her time as a Snyder Scholar.

“Being a smaller school, we’re limited in that way, both in space and in funding,” Rout said. “So being able to go to one of these bigger state schools and get an idea of what chemistry research looks like in a larger institution, and at the level that we’ll end up doing it. We don’t do much like synthetic biology related here. … So I’ll get to see what that looks like also.”

According to Burnell, Rout was also selected as a national student representative for Sigma Zeta, a national science and math honor society, where she would represent students on the honor society’s executive board next year. In addition to her roles as a student and laboratory assistant, Burnell said she is a good tutor for those in chemistry. Rout said she wants to highlight the importance of programs like Snyder Scholars.

“I think being at a small school, you can learn a lot from these programs, and of course, most of them are paid,” Rout said. “They don’t pay great, but they pay, and it really looks great on a resume and it can really help you find what you want to do, but also help show that you’re interested in these things and that you’re committed to what you’re doing.”

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