Faculty Profiles

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A Mentor for Women Scientists

Spend some time with chemistry professor Christopher Dunlap in Science Hall, and you'll be energized by his enthusiasm about teaching at Saint Mary's. “Over the course of four years, our science majors undergo a metamorphosis from student to professional peer,” says Dunlap. “It’s the result of classroom learning but also, the unique experience of doing faculty-guided research at the undergraduate level.”

At Saint Mary’s undergrads use lab equipment that, at larger schools, might only be accessible to graduate students. “That’s one of the great things about being at a small school—you actually get to put your fingers on the instrumentation,” says Dunlap. Chemistry majors develop the skills and confidence to do applied research using a gas chromatograph mass spectrometer, a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer, a high-performance liquid chromatograph, and more. By senior year, Dunlap says, “I can give them an assignment and say, ‘Off you go!’ They make mistakes, but sometimes they find interesting things when they make those mistakes.”

“It’s not just the students who benefit from research,” says Dunlap. “Every time I collaborate with a student, I am reminded why science was such a draw for me. Working with someone who understands the project and can see it with a different set of eyes is important to our progress. And when things work and we learn something new, that’s the best feeling.”