Faculty Mentor: Patricia Dos Santos
When you entered Wake Forest as a first-year student, did you anticipate being able to pursue research with a faculty member?
I knew the option was available, but it did not really excite me as a first year student. I became interested when I learned about the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills and to gain a deeper understanding of chemistry topics through research.
How and when did you learn about mentored research and the URECA Center?
I had a couple of friends who participated in summer research projects the year before, and studying chemistry seemed like a better way to spend the summer than waiting tables at a retirement facility back home. URECA offered a great opportunity to become more involved in Wake Forest and the community as a whole.
What led you to become involved in research as an undergraduate?
A component of the Chemistry major requires students to conduct a semester of research for credit. After the spring of my junior year, I decided to continue my project during the summer and into my senior year.
Can you describe the relationship you have had with some of your faculty members? What did you learn? How did you learn that?
It has been a great experience working with Dr. Dos Santos. She encourages independent thought in experiments while also maintaining high expectations. She drives a very motivated group of students and provides a fun atmosphere in the lab. I have learned how much value can be placed on an education that you seek out for yourself. You gain such a deeper appreciation for science when you actually investigate it rather than simply read about it in a textbook.
How has URECA influenced your ideas about scholarship and your life passions or work?
Having the ability to focus on a single topic for an entire summer and make progress on a project has inspired me towards a future career in which there is a less of a balancing act between academics and extracurricular activities. I am excited to be able to focus all of my energy into a project I am passionate about.
Is there anything else you would like to say about your experience doing mentored research?
Looking back to when I was applying to college four years ago, I do not think it would have been possible to conduct undergraduate research at this level at any other school. One of the greatest qualities of Wake Forest is the opportunity to work personally with mentors. The professors are eager to work with students, and I truly feel the Wake Forest family in the lab and in the community at large.