Chemistry was Alexander Hahn’s, ’13, least favorite subject in high school. The thought of majoring in it never occurred to him—until he started classes at the University of Richmond.
It was the professors who changed his mind.
“The professors in the chemistry department teach the material so differently,” he said. “Chemistry here is a dense, rich, intertwined set of atomic and physical theories that scientists would utilize to describe the physical phenomenon we see daily.
“What also drew me to chemistry was its deeper, microscopic view of explaining bigger, macro level scientific phenomenon like how the brain is able to transfer a signal in the blink of an eye.”
Hahn, now a chemistry major, was selected to participate in a Procter & Gamble seminar this summer called “Research your Future in Science.” It was an all-expense paid trip to visit the P&G research and development facilities at their headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio.
When his research advisor, Dr. Carol Parish, handed him the flier from P&G, Hahn said he had no idea it would be the start to a great experience—one that would give him a glimpse into the research world where he is considering a career.
In addition to being selected for the seminar, Hahn would also be up for a summer 2012 internship with P&G upon completing the seminar.
While in Ohio, Hahn’s seminar met with representatives from different P&G departments, such as family care, feminine care, beautify and grooming, perfumes and colognes and others. He learned that different departments are based in different fields: for example, family care is anchored in chemistry while feminine care is more engineering based.
Near the end of the seminar, Hahn worked with a group to build a mock case study for creating one consumer product. The project factored in cost, consumer need, science, competition and marketing.
“It's incredibly difficult to make a decision that satisfies all these factors,” he said. “These key decisions are the frustrating and exciting challenges of working in a consumer goods corporation.”
At the end of the seminar, Hahn interviewed for the internship—and got it. He was one of 500 vying for 10 spots.
Hahn will spend next summer in the family care department working on a range of projects, from developing chemicals to producing consumer friendly designs. He said he is looking forward to the hands-on opportunity—a change from the academic research he has conducted for two summers on campus.
In his lab, he is working on characterizing an organic reaction and suggesting better ways to synthesize an anti-cancer agent.
“My lab is a theoretical chemistry lab, so it's very specific computer-based calculations on chemicals and their application to a bigger picture,” he said.