Amber Davis '06

Amber Davis

Amber Davis '06

Hometown: Exeter, N.H.
Major: Chemistry, with a minor in Anthropology

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
I had heard that Bowdoin offered a particularly well-rounded liberal arts program. I knew that I was a science person but I wanted to be sure I could try different things. It didn't hurt when I found out that Bowdoin was very well-known in the hard sciences either.

In addition to the academic environment, I found that Bowdoin possessed more of a community feel than some other schools. Being in a more suburban setting is an advantage in that it keeps activities and social life close to campus which fosters closer-knit ties amongst the students.

Why did you choose you major?
My interest in chemistry has actually been a life-long pursuit. For as long as I can remember I have been surrounded by scientists. At home my father and his science field friends/colleagues sparked my interest when I was younger. A few excellent and dedicated high school science teachers helped lead me toward chemistry.

What has been your favorite course at Bowdoin?
During my first year I had a particularly interesting chemistry course, which is unusual for introductory courses. Chemistry 119 with Professor Beth Stemmler allowed each student in my class to design and perform our own experiments and research methods. It was as though each one of us was engaged in our own independent study with the Professor within the context of the course.

Within my Anthropology experience I have taken some interesting courses. During my first year I took a course on Native American Spirituality. The best part was that each class started with us listening to traditional music and attempting recreate something akin to the mystical experiences of Native Americans.

Have you engaged in any independent research while at Bowdoin?
I am currently working on an honor's project with Dharni Vasudevan of the Chemistry Department. The project is somewhat interdisciplinary and focuses on the archeological implications of chemistry. I laid the groundwork for the research this summer on a funded trip to Belize with Professor Leslie Shaw of the Anthropology department. We worked on a Mayan archeological site that was thought to be once a large marketplace. My job was to determine if there were separate market stalls in a specific area.

I brought back soil samples and now I'm working on the chemistry part of the project here at Bowdoin. I am analyzing the soil for phosphorous and heavy metal distributions. I am ultimately trying to prove that animals were being sold at the market. I will do this by looking for traces of the byproducts of cholesterol degradation in animal guts. This is a method that has been used to pinpoint marketplaces in Roman ruins. Markets are a very challenging thing to study as they tended to leave little chemical trace of their existence, but I am looking forward to the challenge.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
I have been a part of two dance troupes, Vague and Obvious, during my time at Bowdoin. Their dance styles range from jazz through hip-hop and it has been a great energy outlet for me. I also lived in a social house (Helmreich House) where I was able to help freshman adjust during those turbulent first few weeks. We planned events and got to know the first-years well over the course of the year. I think the social house system is very important in that it provides first-years with a "home base" of sorts where they can meet people and feel comfortable as they acclimate to college life. I have also held campus jobs in Dining Service and as a lab assistant for introductory chemistry labs.

Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
During my junior year I opted for a change of scenery and spent a semester at Columbia University. I went there intending to fulfill a hefty chemistry requirement which I could not have done abroad. I also have also wanted to live in New York for a period of time, so this was the perfect opportunity. It was a good place to get rigorous science coursework while still providing me with a different pace of life from Bowdoin.

Beyond chemistry I was able to take multiple exploratory courses that took advantage of the cultural events New York has to offer. We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in my Art History course and my History of Dance course incorporated weekly performances.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
My best memory takes me all the way back to the second week of my freshman year. My roommates and I were invited to go swimming at Simpson's Point with some people we had just met. It was evening and the interesting thing about Simpson's Point at night is that the interaction of high levels of phosphorous and algae make the water glow in bright colors. Whenever we moved or splashed around a ring of light shone around our arms and legs. It was pretty surreal and I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, so this is college."

What are your plans for after graduation?
Because I never studied abroad during college, I would love to work for a year or two outside of the U.S. I would hopefully be able to work in something related to the sciences or chemistry either in a lab or in the field. Right now I am thinking about Ireland as an option.

After that I hope to return to the New England area, perhaps Boston, to continue in graduate school for archeochemistry. I would eventually like to use chemistry to work closely with archeologists.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
There are two things you must do while you are here that many people overlook. First of all you have to spend a summer in Maine and stay at Bowdoin. It's beautiful here during the summertime and it provides you with a totally different perspective on Bowdoin and a different pace of life.

In addition, while I realize our dining hall food is excellent, I don't think many students take advantage of the wide array of restaurant offered by Brunswick. They range from very authentic Indian and Thai places to distinctly downeast Maine-style diners and seafood shacks. People don't usually associate Maine with cuisine but it definitely has a food culture of its own.

Story posted on September 21, 2005

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