Take a peek inside Prof. Stevenson’s office on Instagram!
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Title: Assistant Professor
Best Office Artifact: Toonces the driving cat
Professor Suzie Stevenson combines her love of chemistry and cookies to connect with her students and teach them the language of organic chemistry.
Prof. Stevenson is also a 2019 SURE faculty mentor and hopes students find the same value in undergraduate research and passion for chemistry that she experienced as an undergrad.
After her first year at Carthage, we sat down with Prof. Stevenson to learn more while discussing her thoughts and experiences so far.
How did you become interested in chemistry?
“I first became interested in chemistry in high school. When I started college, though, I wasn’t completely sure that I wanted to be a chemistry major. It wasn’t until I took organic chemistry my sophomore year that I realized my passion for chemistry. It was funny because everyone had warned me that organic chemistry was going to be awful, but it turned out to be my favorite class.”
What was the journey to becoming a professor at Carthage like? Why did you choose Carthage?
“I’ve followed a pretty conventional career path to becoming a professor at Carthage. I went straight from college to graduate school to a post-doctoral research position to Carthage. I chose Carthage because I wanted to teach at a liberal arts college that valued teaching as well as undergraduate research—and the lake view is a plus.”
How have you pushed students outside of their comfort zones?
“Organic chemistry is a subject that naturally pushes students outside their comfort zones because it is a type of chemistry that most students have never seen before. Some people even equate learning organic chemistry to learning a new language. Once students overcome that initial language barrier, that’s when organic chemistry starts to get fun.”
This summer you are participating in the SURE program. What do you hope students take away from their work with you?
“The main thing that I hope my students take away from their summer research experience is the ability to think like a chemist. This includes learning skills like searching the chemical literature and designing meaningful experiments and analyzing the results. I also hope that they come to appreciate that they are conducting research on the cutting edge of modern organic chemistry, which is exciting!”
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“Undergraduate research is an invaluable experience for students at Carthage. In chemistry, for example, you can take a hundred different classes to learn about chemistry, but research is where you learn how to be a chemist.”
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With your extensive research background, how valuable do you feel faculty-mentored undergraduate research is for Carthage students? Thinking back, how influential were your own research opportunities throughout your education and career?
“Undergraduate research is an invaluable experience for students at Carthage. In chemistry, for example, you can take a hundred different classes to learn about chemistry, but research is where you learn how to be a chemist. My own research experience as an undergraduate is what helped solidify my love for chemistry. It ultimately set me on a path to becoming a professor at Carthage where now I can provide an undergraduate research experience for future generations of students.”
What are some hobbies or interests you have that may be surprising to students?
“My main hobby is baking, but that probably is not a surprise for students since I make cookies for my classes a few times a semester. Some things that students may not know are that I played softball in college. I also enjoy playing ragtime on the piano and traveling.”
What advice do you have for new or prospective students interested in chemistry?
“My advice is: if you think you like chemistry, take a few chemistry classes and learn more. Chemistry is an important subject because it helps us understand the world, and the world needs more people who understand chemistry.”
Is there anything else you would like to add about your work or time at Carthage?
“Everything about my first year at Carthage has exceeded expectations—my first classes of students have been amazing and the faculty and staff have been incredibly helpful and supportive. I’m looking forward to year two!”
— Interview by Madeline Paakkonen ’21