Over the course of her time as a Clare Booth Luce (CBL) Research Scholar, Sadie Davis ’24 has practiced her organic chemistry lab techniques, worked with new instruments, developed methods and procedures, and kept a detailed journal of her work. All this will undoubtedly serve Davis, a chemistry major who plans to build a career as a researcher and teacher, in good stead. These are skills that are tangible, quantifiable, demonstrable. But they are far from the only ones that she cultivated as a CBL Scholar. The Liverpool, N.Y., native has also grown more confident, self-reliant and adaptable, able to face challenges or obstacles presented to her, and she will carry that with her for the rest of her life.
“The journey is definitely not linear, and I have gained powerful tools such as patience, independence, and a strong work ethic which will carry with me through all aspects of life,” she said. “My experience in research has taught me to be set on my goals but flexible in my methods of achieving them, which is a perspective that has positively impacted my life in several ways.”
Through her work in the lab of Associate Professor of Chemistry Joe Mullins, Ph.D., Davis is seeking to alkylate and purify different carbocyclic curcuminoids to obtain unique substructures that hold valuable properties in pharmacology. She hopes eventually to include many of the concepts she is studying in a thesis for the College’s Integral Honors Program. Mullins noted that Davis, who spends about 10 hours per week in the lab, is already making great progress in learning to synthesize new structures that are relevant in medicine. He credited that success to her “patience, persistence and ability to notice things that others might not.”
Davis, who initially planned to study biology on the Heights before being drawn to chemistry, first learned about the CBL Research Scholars Program from Mullins. Named for playwright, journalist, U.S. ambassador to Italy and first woman elected to Congress from Connecticut, the program encourages women like Davis to pursue vocations in science, mathematics and engineering by providing them with research, networking and professional development opportunities. It has become one of the single largest sources of private funding for women’s STEM higher education in the United States. To date, the program has provided 2,955 women in STEM at 214 institutions with grants totaling $217 million to conduct research. 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.
Mullins stressed that collaboration and teamwork like that cultivated through the CBL Research Scholars Program are the heart and soul of scientific inquiry.
“Research is not done in a vacuum, and it’s not a solo effort,” Mullins said. “We often think of scientists like Isaac Newton sitting up all night with this candle burning down to the bear base, just doing mathematics on a notepad. But it's really not like that. The most successful scientists collaborate. They share ideas, they discuss their problems, and I see students like Sadie doing that already.”
In addition to her CBL experience, Davis works as a laboratory assistant in the Department of Chemistry, where she is gaining valuable experience in preparing solutions, setting up experiments, and following safety procedures for handling hazardous chemicals. She also leads Organic Chemistry Workshops, and serves as mentor for Stempower, a leading-edge program that allows women studying STEM at Le Moyne to build 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 Scholars Program at Le Moyne.