Hands-On Learning in Chemistry

Great chemistry work happens in the laboratory—and in the field.

At Whittier, chemistry majors expand their education with amazing hands-on opportunities.

To learn more about chemistry internships and other professional opportunities, contact the Weingart Center for Career and Professional Development.

Chemistry major Terianne Hamada stands by a scientific poster.Summer Research Experience

At the beginning of her summer semester away, Terianne Hamada paddled down the Platte River, a 1,050-mile-long serpent that meanders through Nebraska. She had come to the Midwest to study chemistry at a big research institution, but this day, it was time to get out of the lab for some sun. And between the water splashing around the canoes, a capsize or two, and the water guns students packed, no one ended the day at their campsite dry—Terianne included.

It was one of her favorite memories in a transformative summer. At a chemical biology lab at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Terianne dived deep into her short-term research opportunity that Whittier College chemistry professor Ralph Isovitch pointed her toward. At the lab, Terianne conducted cancer-related research alongside several graduate students, who mentored her until she was handling research on her own.

“Most of the lab techniques were new and built on my base-level knowledge from my classes at Whittier College,” she said. “This kind of research experience has prepared me for graduate school, because it has given me a taste of what to expect.”

Chemistry major Olive Anagu in a lab.Asking Questions in the Lab

Olive Anagu loves looking at the world on a molecular level and asking questions, such as: how does a platinum-based cancer drug work?

The chemistry major helped investigate that at a University of Oregon laboratory, her second real-world research experience since starting at Whittier. She and her fellow chemists studied the chemotherapy drug Cisplatin to better understand how it works, which Whittier prepared her for.

Before that, she was at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, analyzing the effects of Warner syndrome, a rare genetic condition characterized by the appearance of premature aging. It’s not uncommon for people with the syndrome to develop several types of cancer.

Olive feels encouraged to pursue these pressing questions, thanks to the supportive academic community she found at Whittier.

“At other schools, if you ask that ‘why?’ question constantly, you get that ‘figure it out’ response,” Olive said. “At Whittier, there’s that community aspect that everyone wants to grow in knowledge. I can ask questions and have them answered.”