When it comes to the age-old debate of brains or brawn, Ethan Quinn prefers a healthy dose of both.
At a burly 225 pounds, he looks every bit like someone who feels more at home in a weight room or chasing down opposing players on the field. This summer, the standout midfielder on the Seton Hill University lacrosse team temporarily traded his jersey in Pennsylvania for a lab coat in Aggieland to participate in the Texas A&M University Department of Chemistry’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program.
Quinn is one of hundreds of undergraduate students from across the country who traveled to a host university in the past two months to take part in the popular 10-week National Science Foundation-funded initiative that allows them to participate in hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research under the supervision of a faculty mentor.
“I chose to participate in this because I want to go to grad school, and I love research,” Quinn said. “There’s a huge connection with sports and academics. I think you really do learn a lot more when you’re physically active.”
Quinn, a senior chemistry major, was drawn to Texas A&M by the work being done in the research group of chemist and Presidential Professor David Bergbreiter, which specializes in techniques to develop ecofriendly polymers for use in water purification. As a native Californian who spent his childhood playing on the picturesque beaches of Santa Cruz, the potential environmental impacts were especially appealing to Quinn.
Since arriving to the Bergbreiter research group, Quinn has been testing methods of isolating trace organic contaminants from water using greener solvent systems. Admittedly, the research has been rigorous, but he says he finds motivation in knowing that his work is contributing to a greater societal need.
“There’s a big problem with pollution in water because there are a lot of oil companies and big chemical manufacturing companies,” Quinn said. “Anything we can do to pull out those contaminants is going to be good for Texas and the entire United States.”
Neil Rosenfeld ’19, a graduate research assistant in the Bergbreiter laboratory, has watched Quinn morph into a confident team asset and praised his dedication to understanding the complex science behind the group’s research.
“Many techniques that we perform in this lab are new to him, but his ability to learn new methods and apply them independently allows for him to run many reactions smoothly and attain results quickly,” Rosenfield said. “In the short time I’ve known him, he has proven to be a hardworking and attentive mentee, someone who has the potential to be an outstanding scientist.”
Research and education weren’t always held in the same regard as Quinn’s love of sports. Growing up, Quinn spent his formative years playing soccer and hockey and taking part in competitive skating. He admits that finding a suitable lacrosse program was his main priority when choosing colleges. However, it was during his freshman chemistry course that Quinn finally realized importance of academics while simultaneously discovering a new passion.
“That class was when academics really took hold of my collegiate career,” Quinn said. “I think chemistry can really define all of life. Everything builds into chemistry; I think it’s the middle-point of most other scientific disciplines, and I like how I can apply those other fields in chemistry.”
Quinn’s advice on that front? Just find a balance between academics and the extracurricular. And if pursuing a career in a scientific field happens to win out, Quinn recommends the earlier the better when it comes to getting research experience.
“Research challenges you to run reactions and tests that don’t have an answer,” Quinn said. “You gain critical thinking, and it allows you to solve problems that haven’t been solved before. The research experience here has been great for me, and I’ve learned so much.
“I’d just like to really thank Texas A&M University for including me in this REU program, I think it’s going to jump-start my career and help me get into grad school.”
For additional information about other REU programs available through the College of Science, go to http://tx.ag/TAMUScienceREUs.
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About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M is at the forefront in making significant contributions to scholarship and discovery, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represented annual expenditures of more than $922 million in fiscal year 2018. Texas A&M ranked in the top 20 of the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development survey (2017), based on expenditures of more than $905.4 million in fiscal year 2017. Texas A&M’s research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting, in many cases, in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit http://research.tamu.edu/.
Contact: Chris Jarvis, (979) 845-7246 or firstname.lastname@example.org