By Rob O'Connor '95
How do students learn to solve
real-world problems? For Dr. Courtney Hatch '00, it involves independent but
integrated research focused on a common goal.
"In science, no one person can
solve big problems alone," said Hatch, an assistant professor of chemistry,
whose courses include Chemistry of the Environment, Environmental Analysis, and
Advanced Analytical Chemistry. She also supervises the Advanced Techniques in
Experimental Chemistry lab.
Since joining the chemistry faculty of her alma
mater in 2008, she has guided a student research program, supported in part by a
grant from the National Science Foundation, which pairs students with various
scientific interests to tackle a larger problem.
integrated research ... That's the approach I'm taking," Hatch said.
student "owns" a research project based on their disciplinary interest, but the
projects are interrelated. While individual projects are carried out
independently, students meet weekly to discuss the implications of their
research on the common question.
"Students have a chance to talk about their
research with each other so that aspects of one research project may help them
understand another project," she said. "They own their own projects so they feel
ownership and take responsibility for their research, but there is a feeling of
community. ... It not only shows they can work together to understand the big
picture but that their knowledge isn't limited by their discipline and their
One of her current students, McKenzie Keller '13, was one of six
Hendrix students awarded a Student Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF)
grant this fall from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Keller, a
chemistry major from Rogers, Ark., will study the impacts of atmospheric mineral
aerosol heterogeneous chemistry on phytoplankton growth rates.
Hatch is no
stranger to the style of student research she oversees at Hendrix.
earning her doctorate at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where she
studied the chemistry of mineral dust aerosol in the atmosphere and its impacts
on atmospheric chemistry and climate, she accepted a post-doctoral fellowship at
the University of Iowa. While her research on atmospheric mineral dust continued
in Iowa City, she also promoted collaboration and networking between medical
researchers and the chemistry department to initiate a multidisciplinary
collaboration to study the effects of nanoaerosols on human health.
days in chemistry, you can't do anything alone," she said. "Being able to
communicate across boundaries is so critical."
Sharing research results
beyond campus is a natural extension of the enterprise, too. Hatch requires all
of her students to present their research at the American Chemical Society (ACS)
"It doesn't make a difference if it doesn't get out," said
As a Hendrix student, Hatch did independent research with her future
colleague Dr. Tom Goodwin and attended two national ACS conferences with faculty
members and a group of approximately eight students.
As a faculty member,
she accompanied 24 chemistry students last spring to a national meeting of the
American Chemical Society in Anaheim, Calif.
This spring, she will accompany
28 students to the meeting in San Diego, Calif.