A Chemical Attraction
Feb 09, 2012When Teresa Vernig '12, Delano, Minn., graduates in May, she will be Concordia's first ACS graduate with a concentration in neurochemistry.
Of the 675 colleges and universities with majors approved by the American Chemical Society, Concordia is the only to offer a neurochemistry concentration, says Dr. Darin Ulness, associate professor and chair of the chemistry department.
The ACS degree encourages students to take more rigorous and in-depth classes, which will set them apart from the competition when they apply for jobs and graduate school, Ulness says.
Most ACS majors, like Vernig, also complete high-level research projects. She completed pharmaceutical research last summer at the University of Mississippi, and this year she is performing lupus research with Dr. Krystle Strand, assistant professor of biology, and Dr. Susan Larson, associate professor of psychology.
Concordia has held ACS approval since 1961. In a typical year, about one-fifth of Concordia's chemistry majors choose an ACS concentration. The students who choose these majors benefit from small class sizes and numerous opportunities for research.
"This [small class size] really shows the Concordia advantage in a liberal arts context," Ulness says. "We leverage all that Concordia has to offer."
Vernig was attracted to neurochemistry because of her curiosity for medical mysteries and desire to work in a field of science that affects so many people.
"Even if you are not a science major, you see illnesses like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's in the media and in everyday situations with people all around you," she says.
Vernig credits Ulness, her adviser, with pushing her to complete the neurochemistry program.
"Dr. Ulness saw my potential and encouraged me to take the harder classes," Vernig says.
She's also taken advantage of volunteer opportunities near campus. For the past four years, she has worked as a volunteer at Sanford Health, Fargo, N.D. From rocking babies in the neonatal intensive care unit to talking with patients in the eating disorders unit, Vernig is gaining valuable experience that she will apply to her schoolwork and future career.
She is thankful to have ACS neurochemistry on her transcript as she applies for medical school.
"This degree is distinct coming out of a liberal arts school," she says. "It is definitely something medical schools will ask about, and it will apply to situations I will face after graduation."