Thursday, January 5, 2012

Inspiring Success Story: Sarah Vilardi Finds Her Niche, Organic Chemistry

“I got very excited about chemistry, especially organic. That’s when I switched my major.” ~ Sarah Vilardi, LCC graduate

Sarah Vilardi was training for a career in ballet when an injury sent her looking for a new dream. She found—and followed—it at Lower Columbia College.

Sarah had always liked science. Exploring different fields at LCC, she was an excellent student and became a math, biology and chemistry tutor in the Learning Commons. Thinking she would become an MD, she took every science class she could. “I got very excited about chemistry, especially organic. That’s when I switched my major.”

Taking her tutoring work to the next level, she led Supplemental Instruction sections in chemistry. Sarah was active in the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and helped with judging at Science Olympiad events.

Next step: Willamette University
“As I found my niche in chemistry and teaching, I went to Willamette University and said, ‘Hey, this is a great school for me; a great fit.’” Chemistry Instructor Armando Herbelin, her advisor, helped her with her scholarship application, and he and fellow instructor Adam Wolfer both wrote letters of recommendation.

She got that scholarship, and the transfer went great. “My credits from LCC transferred so well! I actually had enough math at LCC that it was feasible for me to get a math minor.” The math is especially valuable to her as a researcher. “I have to commend the LCC Math Department. I took a lot of math from Dawn Draus, and she is incredible.”

Today, Sarah has a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from Willamette University, with a minor in Mathematics, and is working toward a PhD in Chemistry, doing research in at the University of Utah.

“I really enjoyed my undergraduate lab research at Willamette. It was a big leap for me…I received excellent instruction, both at LCC and at Willamette. I know what research is like, and they really prepared me and pushed me toward what I need to be successful in grad school.”
Sarah took every science class she could at LCC, and led
special Supplemental Instruction groups in Chemistry.

Working on her PhD
At Utah, she’s a teaching and research assistant, grading papers, helping in the lab, leading discussion sessions, staffing open office hours, and helping with research projects. She just finished her first semester. After two years, she will have enough credits and have done enough research to receive her master’s degree.

Sarah has already zeroed in on her doctoral research area: organometallic chemistry. She will use linear algebra to predict chemical reactions, saving time and expense in designing the best catalysts.

1 comment:

Mel said...

What an impressive young woman and a great inspiration to other young women considering careers in science and math.