Dr. Chen serves as an advisor to students through the Chemistry Living Learning Community (LLC). In Dr. Chen’s words, “For those who want it, this program is trying to encapsulate some of the advantages of being in a small, liberal arts university within the behemoth, public university framework. For 18 freshmen, professors actually know their names and their individual goals and stories. Students actually come to us for advice on a comfortable enough basis. We get the opportunity to expose them to the exciting stuff in chemistry, like new research and connections to industry, so that they can understand that what they will be learning in their coursework is actually useful in the real world.”
The Living Learning Community takes this support outside of office hours and classrooms. Every week in Indian Quad’s Danes Den dining hall, a group of 6-8 LLC students gather with Dr. Chen to discuss everything from “what they did that weekend” to “an existential reevaluation of what they want to study and what career they want.” The students “ask a lot of questions about what we know about different careers. Sometimes I bring in graduate students or other professors to chat about their experiences. It’s nice to have an informal time to interact with students and just get to know them better as people.”
Dr. Chen clearly loves being a teacher and advisor. The LLC students “have so much raw enthusiasm. It’s really fun introducing students who are so eager to what we find motivating and cool about science. Science is hard. To survive, you have to be able to cultivate some of this enthusiasm despite all the challenges and mind-numbing boring stuff you have to stomach to be an effective scientist.”
This past October, Dr. Chen helped mobilize his LLC students to participate in the Institute’s first “RNA Day.” His students volunteered in teaching basic scientific concepts and guiding local 7-12th grade students through hands-on workshops. They extracted DNA/RNA from strawberries and visualized separation science using liquid chromatography. The LLC volunteers were poised beyond their years and generously offered the visiting students advice on getting through science classes in college. They candidly shared why they thought science is so interesting which in turn engaged the younger students. The LLC volunteers were committed to helping students succeed in their experiments and to gain a bit of inspiration along the way.
When asked about his involvement in rallying the LLC Students, Dr. Chen humbly remarked, “I just asked who was interested in doing some science outreach.” It is safe to say that these LLC freshmen were motivated by the commitment and enthusiasm modeled by Dr. Alan Chen and the positive culture created in the Living Learning Community.
Dec 01, 2014