Bright careers await the seniors graduating soon from Kalamazoo College, including those in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Six of them were spotlighted recently during a Signing Day, featuring some of the scholars who are moving on to graduate programs this fall.
Much like student-athletes would gather to sign letters of intent when selecting their collegiate destinations, the chemistry students met to officially declare their educational next steps. The event was first envisioned by Subi Thakali ’21, Alex Cruz ’21 and Angela Ruiz ’21, who desired an academic answer to the accolades a student-athlete might receive during a Signing Day. Professor of Chemistry Jeff Bartz organized it that first year and even borrowed a photography backdrop from the athletics department.
Now, grad-school bound chemistry students from K receive some brief fame through social media as their pictures and destinations are featured in the department’s Twitter and Instagram accounts. Suja Thakali ’23, a leader in the Higher-Level Education in Dow student organization, planned much of this year’s event with Bartz again borrowing a backdrop. The students among the honorees on the Signing Day were:
- Annie Tyler, who is heading to Yale University for a Ph.D. in organic chemistry
- Amanda Morrison, who will join the University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy in St. Louis for a master’s degree in medicinal chemistry
- Grace McKnight, who will attend the Grainger School of Engineering at the University of Illinois for a Ph.D. in theoretical and applied mechanics
- Lia Schroeder, matriculating at Rutgers University for a Ph.D. in biophysical chemistry
- Faith Flinkingshelt, moving on to the University of California-Irvine for a Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry
- Ola Bartolik, who is seeking a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the University of Michigan.
The chemistry department expects the tradition to continue next year alongside students from the biology department. But for this year, Tyler’s destination is especially noteworthy as she will be the first Heyl scholar from K to be awarded a Heyl Fellowship in more than 15 years. Heyl scholars are high-achieving high school graduates from Kalamazoo County, who receive full-tuition scholarships to attend K in a STEM program or Western Michigan University’s Bronson School of Nursing. K grads who successfully matriculate to Yale are eligible to apply for the Fellowship.
Tyler—a chemistry and religion double major, Kalamazoo Central High School graduate and Kalamazoo Promise scholar—said Yale wasn’t a graduate school on her radar until she realized the possibility of attending on a Heyl Fellowship.
“When I visited the campus and chemistry building, Yale was the only place I visited where I didn’t have an ‘I like this, but here’s this issue I have with it’ feeling,” Tyler said. “I liked everything about it. I liked that it was in a new place, and that they seemed really excited about recruiting students. I could very easily picture myself at Yale for the next five years.”
The Heyl Fund will cover up to four years of Tyler’s tuition and fees along with a stipend in the Fellowship. For the upcoming academic year, those costs add up to more than $80,000.
“I’m really honored that I was chosen for the Heyl Scholarship and the Heyl Fellowship,” Tyler said. “The scholarship allowed me to attend Kalamazoo College in the first place. To see that my last four years of work at K have allowed me to become a Heyl Fellow makes me really proud and excited to continue the work.”