Kelly Rula '07

Kelly Rula

Kelly Rula '07

Hometown: Dallas, Texas
Major: Biochemistry and Environmental Studies

Why did you choose to come to Bowdoin?
Hailing from the Lone Star State, I had never been east of the Everglades before I applied. But upon visiting the school during a huge blizzard in 2003 and meeting extremely friendly students and professors, I felt like Maine would be a great place to live for four years. The beautiful campus and competitive sailing team didn't hurt either.

Why did you choose your major?
If all goes as planned, I will graduate in May with a Biochemistry and Environmental Studies coordinate major. I came to Bowdoin intent upon majoring in chemistry but was also interested in biology. Biochemistry allowed me to merge these two fields together. I had been interested in the environment in high school and enjoyed taking interdisciplinary courses focusing on both biochemistry and the environment at Bowdoin. The fluidity of the Environmental Studies major has allowed me to take courses in a variety of fields while still leaving enough space to fulfill my Biochemistry requirements.

What has been your favorite course at Bowdoin?
While many great classes and professors have crossed my path during my tenure at Bowdoin, three courses in particular stand out. During my first year at Bowdoin, I had the pleasure of taking Professor Beth Stemmler's Advanced Introduction to Chemistry, which was only offered that year. With only seven students in the class, we were able to set a fast pace and engage in really fun lab techniques, giving us a taste of what the Chemistry Department had to offer.

Spring semester of my sophomore year, I took Professor Allen Springer's Search for Justice Seminar, in which I studied environmental and humanitarian international law issues and cases. I enjoyed debating about everything from the Kyoto Protocol to the Rwanda Trials and gained valuable knowledge through the peer editing "summit" he held (with snacks!) at the Coastal Studies Center.

And last fall, I was able to take Professor Dharni Vasudevan's Environmental Fate of Toxic Chemicals where, for the first time, I could delve into an area of future scientific interest. As a result of this class, I was able to craft my current independent study with Professor Vasudevan.

Have you engaged in any independent research while at Bowdoin?
Building upon the foundation laid in Professor Vasudevan's Environmental Fate class, I am currently doing an independent study on the bioremediation of toxic chemicals. Bioremediation is a new way of cleaning up contaminated sites by using bacteria to eat/degrade chemicals. I am enjoying the freedom to pursue an area of serious interest that allows me to combine lab technique with in-depth literature research. My two-fold research will culminate in both a research paper comparing chlorinated solvent remediation methods and an experiment involving phenol-degrading bacteria. I especially enjoy being able to pursue this new and exciting area of study while at same time designing my own unique research project.

What extracurricular or work experiences have you had at Bowdoin?
I have been very involved with the College Democrats; working on Governor Howard Dean's campaign freshman year was a blast! In years past I have dabbled in Masque and Gown productions, the Evergreens environmental group, and the ballet troupe Arabesque. I worked as a dishwasher and later research assistant to a variety of biology labs and currently lay down the law at the school's fitness centers.

However, my most time-consuming and worthwhile extracurricular is not found on the immediate Bowdoin campus, but rather on the bodies of water near to the school. As a current captain and four-year member of varsity sailing team, I have had the privilege of spending most weekends traveling to events across New England and exploring all it and its sailing venues have to offer. We sail everywhere from as close as 20 minutes away from Bowdoin to as far as northern Vermont or Rhode Island. When I first joined the team, I had never even raced a small boat but I was excited to learn and willing to commit to the team. The hard work paid off and I have been very involved during my time here. Despite the enormous time commitment, I wouldn't trade the experience for anything!

Did you study abroad during your time at Bowdoin?
Spring semester of my junior year, I took a leave of absence and journeyed to Tanzania and Kenya in East Africa. There I volunteered with an NGO training farmers in sustainable agriculture techniques and traveled extensively throughout the two countries, visiting Lake Malawi, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, and of course cruising on the obligatory safari.

Everything about the experience was memorable. For part of my time there, I lived with an African family who had no running water or constant electricity. And even though I spent weeks traveling alone (to the worry of my parents), I never felt unsafe in Africa. It was nice to have a break from Bowdoin, interact in a completely different and wonderful world, and reflect on past and future accomplishments and goals.

What have you done during your summers?
Following my first year, I returned home to Dallas, Texas, and worked in the Multiple Sclerosis laboratory at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where I had worked the previous two summers before college. After sophomore year, I journeyed to Washington, D.C., and interned at the National Environmental Trust in an attempt to try my hand at the policy side of the environment. Finally, last summer I attended the University of Texas at Austin, enrolled in Engineering Physics, and re-connected with old friends. Now my parents, who both went to the University of Texas, can die in peace knowing that I was a UT Longhorn for at least one semester.

What is your best Bowdoin memory?
There have been so many great memories it is hard to even narrow it down to a top 20! A few that stand out as extremely unforgettable include the freshman year dorm-wide snowball fight that culminated in a group of practical strangers (myself included) sprinting down the steps of the Walker Art Building, screaming, yelling, and tackling every person in front of us in the fresh snow.

Sophomore year, a group of friends and I built an amazing, life-size igloo on the Brunswick Apartments quad and fit about 20 people in there! We used recycling bins and had avalanche shovels, and worked for around three hours until finally we had an igloo. It was pretty amazing.

Apart from the snowy memories, all of the way-too-late-night talks with my friends, the all-nighters resulting in a trip to the Brunswick diner at 5:30 a.m., and the end-of-practice sunsets that make you truly appreciate how special this place is.

What are your plans for after graduation?
I plan on taking a few years off to figure out what specialty I will pursue for further education, most likely environmental engineering. Next year, I would love to live on the West Coast, engage in top-of-the-line environmental technologies research, and save money to travel extensively around the world.

What advice would you give to a prospective student or first-year about the Bowdoin experience?
Take advantage of every opportunity you have here! But keep in mind that at the end of the day you really won't remember writing that 20-page government research paper. You will, however, remember all the impromptu punk rock-out sessions and the two-hour-long dinners devoted to catching up with your friends. Never forget how lucky you are to attend school in one of the most beautiful places in the world: Maine.

What quirky or fun thing did you wish you knew before you came to Bowdoin?
There are five seasons in Maine: summer, fall, winter, spring, and mud.

Story posted on November 27, 2006

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