Jennifer Rote ′15

Hometown: Birmingham
Major: Chemistry
Minor: Music

Research Interests: Synthetic organic chemistry

Extracurricular activities: Bio-organic research with Dr. Larryn Peterson, Principle flute in the Rhodes College Orchestra, Kappa Delta Sorority, Gamma Sigma Epsilon Honor Society for Chemistry

Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.

At the start of my college search, I had little interest in Rhodes. My older sister graduated from Rhodes the same year I left high school – she had always been an overachiever, and I was hesitant to follow in her footsteps when making my college decision. However, after visiting Rhodes several times, I realized that it was the perfect fit for my own interests and a place I could envision myself learning and growing as a person. I ultimately found in Rhodes a challenging environment all my own.

How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes College?

I feel that I have developed into a more independent thinker since beginning my time at Rhodes. Prior to college, my educational experience almost exclusively involved learning, understanding, and recreating knowledge born from someone else’s thoughts. Rhodes, however, has given me the skills to approach topics and problems with a more inquisitive and critical viewpoint, formulating my own ideas without the aid of a textbook or a professor’s suggestions. This academic independence requires a certain degree of self-assurance, and I am pleased to find that the confidence I’ve acquired within the classroom has extended to other areas of my life as well.

Tell us about your experience working in an organic chemistry lab in Montpellier, France this summer.

I was very interested in combining chemistry research with an experience abroad, so I worked with my professor, Larryn Peterson, to create a program that could be tailored to both of my interests. Dr. Peterson wrote the proposal for an international curricular grant, allowing us to set up a collaboration between our bio-organic lab here at Rhodes and the Glycochemistry and Molecular Recognition Team at the Insitut des Biomolecules Max Mousseron in Montpellier, France. I worked as an intern under the supervision of her colleague, Sebastien Ulrich, and aided his post-doc researcher, Camille Bouillon, with her current project.

I found my time in France this summer to be both challenging and incredibly rewarding. I arrived in the country not speaking a word of French and was immediately thrown into a completely new lab environment. The aim of the project I worked on was to design a dynamic pH responsive polymer for DNA transfection; my specific portion of the work involved synthesizing the individual monomers and eventually linking them together to form the final polymer. I was exposed to a variety of both technical and intellectual skills, and despite the language barrier, I was able to learn from and form relationships with the talented chemists around me. Beyond the laboratory, I found time to travel the country, meet new, interesting people, and sample the best of French food. Although I oftentimes found myself in challenging situations, both academically and personally, I was able to leave the country with a feeling of complete independence and pride for what I was able to accomplish in just a few short months.

What are your plans for the future?

At this point, I hope to pursue a PhD in some branch of chemistry; I am particularly interested in organic molecules, and I would love to have a research-oriented career. My time in Montpellier this summer has confirmed my love of chemistry, and I feel certain that I would find a career in research to be extremely fulfilling.