Chemistry Students Find True Mentor in Research Laboratory

News – Illinois State University
March 19, 2018
By Kevin Bersett

Imagine pursuing an undergraduate and an advanced degree in chemistry—not the easiest of majors—while having to raise your two teenage children alone because your husband is serving in the military in Iraq. That was Cassie Goodman’s life a few years ago. Naturally, she struggled to balance the demands of school and family life under those circumstances.

Goodman said she would have never graduated from Illinois State University without the encouragement she received from Chemistry Professor Shawn Hitchcock. He put her under his wing and gave her extra guidance during the four years she spent in his research laboratory.

“If a student is looking for a rewarding experience and they are looking for someone who is going to foster them in being an independent thinker and put forward their best foot, he is, by far, the most amazing for that,” Goodman ’12, M.S. ’14, said. “He really helped me in ways I wouldn’t probably have gotten from someone else.”

She is one of the dozens of students Hitchcock has mentored since he arrived at Illinois State in 1998. It’s in his lab where he builds on what the students learned in their organic chemistry courses and prepares them for careers in medicine, the chemical industry, or basic research.

“They get to see the true complexity of organic chemistry in the lab, instead of the simplified model they see in class,” Hitchcock said. “Being in a research lab, it sharpens the mind and allows them to really understand what is really going on. When you are up here, anything can happen. You are spending time carefully measuring, evaluating, analyzing, and being critical of the outcomes you get.”