Christian Apel ’18 is spending his summer conducting research in the labs he has learned in for the past three years as a Centre College student.
Working with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Karin Young, Apel hopes to find chemicals that can break down an organic compound found in woody plants called lignin. Since many of the processes used to degrade lignin can harm the environment, Young and Apel aim to find an improved method this summer.
Apel explained that, while his work has presented challenges, he has greatly enjoyed problem solving and moving towards the project’s overall goal.
“I’ve had to troubleshoot and think outside of the box when things go awry more than I anticipated,” he said. “However, this has made me a more confident scientist.”
Additionally, Apel said Centre’s faculty and classes equipped him for these obstacles, familiarizing him with lab work and teaching him the foundational skills needed for his project.
“The professors here at Centre in physics and chemistry have done an exceptional job in preparing me to problem-solve and think critically. I would not be in the position I am now without them,” he added.
Apel described his time with Young as an excellent opportunity to further explore the field of chemistry outside of the classroom.
“Working with Dr. Young has been a blessing,” he said. “As my mentor, I have learned so much from her both academically and personally.”
Remembering a conversation with Young, Apel noted, “As [she] said to me on day one, ‘The atmosphere of research is quite different from inside the classroom. During research, we are more like equals pursuing answers to the unknown.
“I have respected that outlook a lot,” Apel continued. “As my first chemistry professor here at Centre, it makes me happy to look back and see how much I’ve learned from her.”
Another advantage of doing summer research on Centre’s campus, Apel has had the chance to present his early results to peers and professors at the science departments’ weekly luncheons.
“The experience was a good way to reflect on the work I’ve done up to this point and test my knowledge on the subject,” he said. “I’m excited to see what the upcoming luncheons have to offer and to hear about the other research projects being conducted this summer.”
In the future, Apel would like to apply his research experience to his future career or graduate school program in the fields of chemistry, physics or engineering.
By Kathleen Murphy ’18
July 19, 2017