Until just recently, CSI senior and Biochemistry/Chemistry major Saadyah Averick faced a tough choice. He expects to graduate this May, but after that, he had to decide whether he wanted to attend Carnegie Mellon, Tufts, Penn State, Brown, Case Western University, or University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Ultimately, he decided on Carnegie Mellon.

Recalling the role that his CSI education played in creating this bevy of choices, Averick notes, “The education I received at CSI has enabled me to be exposed to subjects and concepts that are essential for graduate school and has allowed me to understand various and complex subjects presented by professors at the graduate schools that I visited. The experience I have gained in the laboratory has yielded a publication in a prestigious chemical journal and this was of great importance in my application and acceptance to graduate school.”

Averick’s mentor, Dr. Krishnaswami Raja, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at CSI, calls him, “the best undergraduate researcher I have encountered in my career as a scientist” and adds that “he is full of creative ideas, which are workable, and is passionate about chemistry, a rare trait in an undergraduate.”

Averick admits that his “love of all things outdoor and scientific” gained him a reputation as a “science kid” when he was younger. In fact, he declared a Biology major when he first arrived at CSI, with the intent of becoming a doctor. Things eventually changed, however. “Though my love of the biological sciences developed early in my life,” Averick explains, “I only discovered my passion for chemistry later on in my college career, when I began to conduct research in Dr. Raja’s laboratory. I was fortunate enough to meet Dr. Raja in my General Chemistry 1 class. During the course of the semester, Dr. Raja noticed my interest in and understanding of chemistry and informed me of research opportunities in his lab. In Dr. Raja’s lab, I received my first taste of the wonders of chemistry. Nothing paralleled the dynamic and ever-changing world of chemistry, and the rewards of creating my very first molecule, which had never previously been observed in nature. After three semesters of fascinating research, I was absolutely certain of what to do with the rest of my life. In light of my altered academic ambitions, I promptly changed my major to Chemistry and Biochemistry.”

Under Dr. Raja, Averick says that his “research experience to date has been fairly broad, spanning many disciplines and fields of chemistry and biochemistry” from his first study, which “involved assisting with the synthesis of mono-functionalized derivatives of curcumin, a small natural product that exhibits powerful antioxidant, anticancer, and anti-Alzheimer’s activity” to his latest research “the synthesis of unique protein-polymer hybrids for in-vivo imaging and drug delivery. This project involves the synthesis of polymers, the functionalization of the polymers, and their subsequent conjugation to proteins.

His work in the lab has also focused on helping to acclimate “new students to the research environment and teaching them how they can gain the most out of college,” as well as teaching and tutoring Chemistry students.

Now that his time at CSI is almost at an end, Averick notes that he looks “toward graduate school to strengthen my knowledge and understanding of chemistry and its applications in life. PhD training will grant me access to various skills necessary for success in the industrial and academic worlds. The years spent in pursuit of my PhD will expose me to many unique scientific problems. I will gain the knowledge and problem-solving skills that I will need as a future researcher. Most importantly, I feel that through chemistry I can help improve the quality of life and the environment in which we live by creating new and useful materials.”

CSI student Saadyah Averick has chosen to pursue graduate studies at Carnegie Mellon University.