Bryanna Howes ’23 was a curious child, the kind who enjoyed looking through microscopes, exploring new places and asking the adults in her life how things worked. Howes was fascinated by the world around her. That sense of wonder grew with her into adulthood. And since research has been called “formalized curiosity,” it is no surprise that Howes, now a chemistry major and criminology minor at Le Moyne, finds herself spending several hours a week in lab on campus, engaged in research under the mentorship of Associate Professor of Chemistry Anna O’Brien, Ph.D.
The work that Howes is doing is complex. It involves making a ligand to complex to various metals for applications in electronic thin films, such as those found in memory devices like mobile phones and computers. Howes’ research is part of a larger project that is being spearheaded by O’Brien and Karin Ruhlandt of Syracuse University. In addition to contributing to the body of scientific knowledge, the Central New York native is learning invaluable lessons about what it takes to be a good researcher: the ability to establish a clear goal, to execute a plan carefully, and to build a strong professional network.
The work Howes is doing is aided by the support of 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 Howes to pursue vocations in science, mathematics and engineering 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 2,800 women in STEM through a total of 819 grants to 200 different institutions, including 65 minority-serving institutions. It comes 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.
“The Clare Booth Luce Program allows us to provide more opportunities for young women to do research on campus, and that is incredibly valuable,” said O’Brien. “It also allows them to grow their professional network and to make important connections as they prepare to begin their careers.”
Indeed, Howes is already beginning to construct a solid professional foundation upon which she can build. She is preparing to present her findings at the College’s annual Scholars Day celebration. After her graduation, Howes plans to pursue a master’s degree in forensic science through Le Moyne’s 4+1 partnership with Syracuse University and then work as a forensic toxicologist. She credits her time in the CBL Research Program with helping her not just to gain real-world experience, but also to become even more excited about what lies ahead.
“I feel like I am engaging in chemistry at a deeper level,” she says.
In addition to her involvement with the Clare Boothe Luce Research Program, Howes 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.