Take Charge Belle - Liz Bajema '11

Take Charge Belle

Liz Bajema '11 found her passion, immersed herself in the excellence of Saint Mary’s College liberal arts courses, discovered a need, and took action all before she graduates this spring.  

Liz is researching testing tools that unmask counterfeit Malaria drugs in Africa, where, according to World Health Organization reports, counterfeit or substandard drugs are 50 % of the drug market.

For Liz, her research has been the most rewarding experience yet at Saint Mary’s.  “It fuses my passion and abilities so well,” Liz says. Liz recently traveled to Monrovia, Liberia, to participate in research regarding counterfeit Malaria drugs.

Currently, there is no way available for consumers to test the drugs in the field and without a more extensive scientific approach. Liz is researching a counterfeit detection tool called a Paper Analytical Device (PAD).  She has been working with Saint Mary’s professor, Dr. Toni Barstis and Notre Dame professor, Dr. Marya Lieberman.  The Paper Analytical device would allow for consumers to test the drugs before they are bought.  “I saw a great need in Liberia, which strengthened my resolve to use my skills in chemistry to alleviate the worldwide need” Liz says.  

Liz spent the first part of the week in a business conference learning how businesses can become involved, while the second part of the week was spent making contacts with hospitals, schools, and other facilities. “I got to see firsthand what many of the pharmacies and clinics are like there, as well as ask questions and hear concerns Africans had about the counterfeit drug problem,” she says. It is no surprise that Liz plans to stay in chemistry research after graduation and wants to work to make a tangible impact on people’s lives.

Liz knew that she wanted to be a chemistry major from the start of freshman year and has found what she loves to do.  “I have found my passion,” says Liz.  While she loves chemistry, Saint Mary’s liberal arts curriculum allowed her to find another great interest: religious studies.  Liz believes that the religious studies major has kept her balanced while she had the intellectual freedom to form her own views. It is a way to realize the “big picture” and she regards her second major as one of her “best decisions I’ve made while at Saint Mary’s.” 

Even though Liz will take away the knowledge she earned in her dual majors, she also believes Saint Mary’s greatest contribution for her is that she will “take away the confidence that Saint Mary’s gives you” most when she graduates in May. Saint Mary’s builds a girl up to become an independent woman who “holds her heads high,” Liz says.

—Julie McGrail ’12