Brittany Cripps ’23 has long had a passion for science. That passion has continued to grow as Cripps has spent more and more time in the laboratory, putting concepts she’d learned in the classroom into practice. Such experiences have allowed her to step out of her comfort zone and to grow as a scientist. Now she’s undertaking a project that is especially meaningful – and personal. Cripps is working in the lab of Associate Professor of Chemistry Joseph Mullins, Ph.D., where she is studying compounds known as urea derivatives. It’s believed that they may aid in pain remediation and in treating neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. Cripps lost her grandmother to the illness, which is now the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. If she can play even a small role in helping to provide better care to the millions of people around world living with the disease, it will make all of her efforts worthwhile.
The time Cripps spends in the lab (approximately 10 to 12 hours per week) is aided by the Clare Boothe Luce Research Program at Le Moyne. Named for playwright, journalist, U.S. ambassador to Italy and first woman elected to Congress from Connecticut, the program encourages women like Cripps to pursue vocations in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by providing them with research, networking and professional development opportunities. The Clare Boothe Luce Program has become one of the single largest sources of private funding for women’s STEM higher education in the United States. As of 2021, the program has supported more than 2,900 women in STEM through a total of 819 grants to 200 different institutions, including 65 minority-serving institutions. It does so at a critical time. According to a recent U.S. Census report, “Despite making up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, women are still vastly underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and math workforce.” This disparity is concerning. Studies have long shown that diverse teams arrive at better decisions than homogeneous ones. They tend to focus more on facts, to process those facts more carefully, and to be more creative in their thinking.
Over the course of her time in the Clare Boothe Luce Research Program, Cripps has expanded her understanding of the topic she’s studying and sharpened her overall skills in the lab. She has, as Mullins said, modeled “the interest, patience and drive that characterize all good researchers and scientists.” She’s also rediscovered how much she loves chemistry and its capacity to shape nearly every aspect of our lives. And while she acknowledges that the work can sound intimidating, she insists that it’s not. It’s just enjoyable. Following her graduation from Le Moyne, Cripps plans to attend graduate school to continue her studies. After that, she is still exploring her options. A career in forensics is a possibility, but nothing is set in stone. Whatever path she takes, though, Cripps has demonstrated that she has learned how to learn, and Mullins says that will undoubtedly make her “a better scientist – and a better citizen.” That is something that would certainly make her grandmother very proud.
In addition to her involvement with the Clare Boothe Luce Research Program, Cripps is also a member of Stempower, a leading-edge program that allows women studying STEM at Le Moyne to community, increase their self-confidence and find their career path.
This story is part of a series on students participating in the Clare Boothe Luce Research Program at Le Moyne.