Allie Daniels was in fourth-grade when she discovered her passion for chemistry, and now, armed with a St. Ambrose education, she is encouraging other girls to pursue their science dreams.
"Continue to discover new things daily. Look at the world around you and ask why. Look for answers. Once you set goals for yourself, there is nothing that can hold you back," Allie said.
"Women are an integral part of science. Whether it be research, teaching or being a doctor or astronaut, the possibilities are endless," she added, and based on experience, she knows.
On May 13, Allie graduated cum laude with a St. Ambrose Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry, with minors in biology, forensic science and justice. This fall she will join a prestigious five-year program at the University of Tennessee in pursuit of a doctoral degree in Analytical Chemistry.
It wasn't until Allie was in fourth grade that she learned about chemistry. "I vividly remember experiments like the classic erupting volcano and counting the number of water drops I could get to stay on a penny before the surface tension caused the water to run off the penny," she said.
"Experiments like these had me in awe. I began to do my own experiments at home."
Her interest and passion grew when she attended the SAU Chemistry for Kids summer camp in 2005.
"I spent those four days in Lewis Hall learning all about what chemistry really is," Allie recalled. "I remember making batteries out of a banana, doing paper chromatography to figure out who wrote a secret message, doing tests to discover what the identity of a powder was, and, on the last day, using all the skills I had learned to solve a real mystery. From that week on, I was in love with chemistry."
When Allie looks back on the camp, she speaks of the significance of one professor and how he made her decision to attend SAU an easy one.
"I remember Dr. (Andrew) Axup was wearing his signature rainbow lab coat as he showed us what a ‘chemical reaction' consisted of on that first day: bubbles, heat and fizzing. I was thoroughly amazed. Little did I know, the same professor who had introduced me to real life chemistry that week would be the first professor I ever had in college."
She feels blessed to have attended St. Ambrose.
"Professors in the chemistry department have done all in their power to make sure I am successful in graduate school. Whether it was answering my countless questions and helping me think through problems, or staying until 7 p.m. so I could be in the lab, my professors have always gone above and beyond to make my experience at Ambrose the best it could be," she said.
Allie knows a large part of the next five years will revolve around research, something some find daunting.
"The chemistry program at SAU has continuously challenged me to think critically and solve problems. I have had the opportunity to do research through the Introduction to Chemical Research class, the Undergraduate Summer Research Institute at SAU, and my senior research project through the chemistry and honors programs. Research is at the heart of chemistry, and my time at Ambrose has made me love lab work," Allie said.
"I was also able to be a tutor and a Supplemental Instruction leader at Ambrose, which really prepared me to teach and gave me a love for teaching chemistry."
In addition, Allie was a member of the Honors Program, Mock Trial, Bridge Bible Fellowship, Campus Ministry, Phi Eta Sigma, Dance Marathon, as well as various intramural sports. Before graduation, she served as secretary for the Chemistry Club and the College Republicans.
Her endless passion for chemistry is evident in her words.
"I've learned that with research, things don't always go as planned. The most challenging aspect for me was staying positive when I often became frustrated with results I was, or wasn't, getting," she said.
"But to me, there is nothing more rewarding than working extremely hard at solving a problem that has been holding you back and rising above that. It's like Edison and the light bulb. You can fail thousands of times, but it only takes that one success to take you to heights you didn't think you could reach."