Undergrad inspired to pass on love of chemistry through teaching

Sierra Carlson ‘17 came to Dominican eager to learn more about chemistry. Now, she plans to teach it for a living.

Sierra, who is chapter president of the University’s chemistry honors society, Gamma Sigma Epsilon, and recipient of the DeLap - Holcomb Scholarship for outstanding achievement in chemistry, is spending her senior year student teaching a high school chemistry class at a local private school and tutoring high school students through a private tutoring company.

“I want students to fall in love with chemistry because, if you are really interested in something and engaged in it, you are going to absorb it like a sponge,” she says. “My main goal is for my students to be prepared if they chose to pursue a college career in science.”

Sierra chose Dominican over UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, and Sonoma State because of the hands-on learning experience Dominican offers in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. She feels extremely fortunate to have taken advantage of the school’s research program, which gets undergraduate students involved in research starting their first year at Dominican.

“I had a really amazing opportunity because, at other, larger schools, you have to fight your way into a research lab and, even then, you get to wash dishes,” Sierra says.

Sierra’s own research led to two environmental chemistry projects that were presented at the National Conference for Undergraduate Research at the University of North Carolina Asheville in 2016. The first project was the development of an educational lab that measures the CO2 concentration using an infrared spectrometer.

The second examined the efficacy of utilizing pine needles as a biomass for alternative fuels.

“This research experience was especially important for me, because it helped me decide that I didn’t actually want to go into research before I pursued that type of career in graduate school,” Sierra says.

Sierra’s Dominican professors and advisors have been “gung-ho” about her decision to pursue a teaching career rather than research.

“When I came to Dominican, I was shy and soft-spoken. During my time here I’ve interacted with so many people that have helped me evolve into a much more confident and outspoken person,” Sierra says. “I want to inspire people to do what they love, just as my professors have done for me.”


February 1, 2017