Lauren Richardson
Lauren Richardson

The College of Science at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) continues its legacy of producing exceptional graduates forging remarkable paths in their respective fields. Lauren Richardson ('23), a bright and dedicated student in the Department of Chemistry, stands among these accomplished individuals.

The university's strong science and engineering programs and promising internship opportunities within the Huntsville community solidified Richardson's decision to call UAH her academic home. Despite a strong affinity for physics and mathematics, Richardson initially embarked on a path in chemical engineering, and very quickly, she realized she wanted to focus on chemistry.

While preparing for her General Chemistry II final during her freshman year, she realized that she enjoyed the subject more than her other major-related classes. Despite initially planning to become a chemical engineer, she had never considered a career in pure chemistry due to the heavy promotion of engineering in high school. This realization was daunting, but it ultimately led her in the right direction.

Richardson found profound joy in her academic journey in the organic chemistry courses and biophysical chemistry explorations. While demanding, these subjects expanded her knowledge and ignited an enduring passion for the field. Practical applications of theoretical principles in laboratory settings gave Richardson a complete understanding of chemistry's real-world significance.

Richardson's devotion to chemistry can be traced back to several influential figures. Support from her parents and the guidance of a dedicated high school chemistry teacher were pivotal in igniting the initial flame. Dr. Love-Rutledge, a distinguished faculty member at UAH, played a transformative role, offering Richardson her first glimpse into the practical realm of chemistry beyond the classroom and enhancing her applied skills in her lab.

During this past summer, Richardson participated in an internship at Bunge in Decatur, AL, where she gained hands-on experience across diverse analytical chemistry methodologies. As she looks to the future, Richardson contemplates graduate studies, with a keen interest in delving into synthetic organic chemistry with a focus on biochemical applications. Her active involvement in Dr. Love-Rutledge's research group, internship at Bunge, and contributions to UAH's chemistry stockroom and biochemistry teaching labs with Dr. Cruz-Vera has served as a compass in identifying her specific areas of interest within the field.

During her summer internship Richarson worked in the analytical chemistry lab. Her role focused on ensuring the quality of various cooking oils by analyzing factors like iodine value, fatty acid concentration, and trans fat content. She gained hands-on experience with instruments like Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Fourier-transform Infrared Spectroscopy, Gas Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid Chromatography, and Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry. In addition to lab work, she tracked additive concentrations in the liquid oil production line using HPLC. This involved collecting and analyzing samples to maintain proper additive levels. Her findings were presented at Bunge's headquarters, where she made valuable professional connections. This experience not only taught her about food safety and chemistry but also how chemistry is applied in industry.

Richardson encourages aspiring chemists to analyze online job descriptions, assess educational prerequisites for desired roles, and engage in meaningful conversations with industry professionals to chart a fulfilling career path. As she reflects upon her journey within UAH's College of Science, Richardson extends heartfelt gratitude to the dedicated faculty, staff, and fellow students who have supported her growth.

Richardson will be graduating this December with a strong foundation, invaluable experiences, and a positive outlook. The UAH College of Science is dedicated to nurturing passionate individuals like Richardson, ready to make significant contributions to the field of science.