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Undergraduate Student Researcher Honored

A Q&A with senior chemistry student Whitney Howard, UC's March Undergraduate Research Student of the Month.  

Date: 3/12/2010 12:00:00 AM
By: Dama Kimmon
Phone: (513) 558-4519

UC ingot   The University of Cincinnati's Undergraduate Research Council has announced the first recipient of the Undergraduate Research Student of the Month award. Check out the Q&A with senior chemistry student Whitney Howard.

Whitney Howard
Senior chemistry student Whitney Howard

Whitney Howard
Senior, Chemistry
Under the direction of faculty mentor William Connick, PhD

What undergraduate research project are you working on?
For the past two years, I have been working on testing for a compound called perchlorate. It is found in explosives, rocket fuel and fireworks and recently has been contaminating our drinking water. I have been helping to develop new sensors using different platinum complexes that change color in the presence of perchlorate, the contaminant.

Why did you opt to do undergraduate research?
When I was a sophomore, I learned that research was required. At the time, I wanted to go to medical school and I thought that would look great on my application, so I asked to research with Dr. Connick. Once I got there it was a completely different story. I truly enjoyed working the lab and felt like I was making a difference. It changed my mind to get a job in industry doing research once I graduated. I think starting research early was one of the best decisions I ever made because I have received a great experience that taught me so much, not to mention I have made many, many connections that will help me succeed in life.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned?
I think the best lesson I learned was that even if something epically fails, you learn something. You can make little changes to improve the experiment for next time. This is not only useful in research, but also in life. When something seems like its completely wrong, take a step back and ask yourself “what can learn I here?” It puts a little optimistic view on even the most tragic events.

What advice would you give to other undergraduates thinking about getting involved in research?
A big piece of advice I would give is start early. You get a great feel for your field as well as how important research is. You see the lives of graduate students, professors and other professionals so it also allows you to grasp what it is you want to do with your own life by seeing other people’s in you field.

What’s next?
Oh man, that’s a tough one. I am graduating this year and I hope to get a job. I have gone on two interviews already and have another lined up so I hope to get an offer doing what I love so I can be the one coming to work in the morning smiling and ready to take on the day!

 If you’d like to nominate an undergraduate researcher for this honor, please contact Cheri Westmoreland at