Women in Math and Science

Emily Bruns '06

Emily Bruns

Emily Bruns '06

Major: Chemistry
Minor: French
Hometown: Bainbridge Island ,WA

What made you decide to come to Bowdoin?
Iím from Seattle and I really like the west coast, but I wanted to try something new. Iíve always been an independent person and I just wanted to get out East. I have family from the Midwest so Iíve been there a lot, but I have never really been to the East Coast, so I thought Iíd try it. I did the typical junior year college tour, and I really liked Bowdoin. So, I got in and I came.

When did you decide that you wanted to be a chemistry major?
I decided after I got here; I really had no idea what I wanted to do. Iíve always like math, but I took a couple math courses and decided that it wasnít the right major. I also took a couple chemistry classes and found out that I really liked it. There werenít any particular courses, because you start out with the basic classes and donít have a lot of choices. I just really liked the general classes and the professors all seemed good. There was nothing else that I wanted to do more.

How did you become a French minor?
That just kind of happened. I took some of the classes and I wanted to study abroad. I figured that I might as well major in French because once you have studied abroad you have taken so many French classes. But after getting into the chemistry major it was too hard to study abroad, so I stuck with a French minor.

Have you had any role models in scientific fields?
I didnít have any growing up. Looking back on it, I always liked science classes, but I never fully realized that I always liked my science classes better than my other classes. Here at Bowdoin, Iíve really liked all of my professors. I think they are all inspiring and I enjoy all of my courses, not only one or two in particular.

Whatís it like being a chemistry major at a small liberal arts college?
Here at Bowdoin there is only a general chemistry major, whereas at a big university you can get into more specialized areas of chemistry. I recently talked to one of my professors about this, because I was wondering if this was going to be a disadvantage because I have this broad knowledge of chemistry, but no concentration. But she explained that being at a liberal arts school allows more opportunities to have hands on work, be in smaller classes, and have more research opportunities. Employers really look highly on the independent thinking at Bowdoin.

Itís hard though, because you have all of your lab classes but you donít get more credit for them. There have been times when I have been taking as many lab hours as other students would take for a normal course load, on top of my own course load. So, it is difficult in the sense that you have much more of a time commitment to your classes.

Have you done any independent studies or honors projects?
Iím doing on honors project right now with Professor Elizabeth Stemmler. I started work on this project last summer when I stayed here to work with the Chemistry Department and paired up with a professor whose research seemed interesting. So, it made sense to continue with it as an honors project this year. Itís an interdisciplinary project with the Biology Department that theyíve been working on for a few years, so weíre continuing the research. We're studying the stomatogastric nervous system of crustaceans to learn about what peptides are present. We then work to sequence these peptides.

One thing that I really like about it is that I never took biology in high school and donít know much about it, so itís really cool to do the dissections and learn about that aspect. Thereís also some neuroscience involved, so itís interesting to learn about those topics in addition to the chemistry piece.

Do you have plans for after graduation?
I have a rough game-plan. Eventually I want to go to graduate school for chemistry. But I donít know which area of chemistry I am interested in, so I canít choose a graduate school while Iím still neutral about the topic. I want to take a couple years off to try out some jobs first and see what areas I am drawn to.

What do you do for fun?
I like the outdoors, so I really like Bowdoin because you can get off campus and be in nature. Freshman, sophomore, and junior year I was on the sailing team, which is both a fall and spring sport and really took up all of my time. Iím taking this season off because I want to concentrate on finding a job and doing my honors project. I work as a lab assistant in the chemistry lab and also love to ski. In general, I really like to hang out with my friends when I have free time. After spending so much time in classes and labs, itís really nice to just relax with friends and get away from school.

Do you have any advice for students interested in chemistry?
I have found the chemistry major really rewarding. It is a lot of work and scheduled work time, especially with the labs, but itís definitely been worth it and it has really paid off. In the beginning you have to do your classes in a sequence, but once you get past those it is really cool. You are able to choose your own classes and it has definitely been worth all of the work. The faculty are great; I donít think there is a single bad chemistry professor; I would take a class with any of them. It is a really great department.

Story posted on March 09, 2006

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