KOKOMO, Ind. — There aren't too many undergraduate students who can call themselves published authors.
Heather Ramey is one of those who can.
Ramey, a chemistry major at Indiana University Kokomo, recently co-authored an article with Kasem Kasem, professor of chemistry, in The Journal of Material Sciences and Applications, detailing their research in harvesting solar energy.
She is grateful for the opportunity to research with a professor as an undergraduate.
"Research makes me feel like I'm exploring uncharted territory," she said. "I like the feel of, you put two and two together, and see how it reacts, rather than reading about it in a book or hearing about it in a classroom lecture. I get to see it for myself. I might not have had this opportunity at a bigger university."
Kasem has involved students in his research for more than 20 years, calling it a valuable teaching and learning tool.
"Research is part of education," he said. "Students who get trained as undergraduates gain experience in research and understand the expectations in the lab. It sets them up for success, both in research labs and in graduate school."
He noted that undergraduates in his lab do the same kinds of work graduate students perform.
"I don't call it 'undergraduate research,' Kasem said. "I call it 'bringing undergraduates to research.'"
Unsure if research was her career interest, Ramey asked Kasem to allow her to work in his lab more than a year ago. She has enjoyed using the state-of-the-art equipment in the lab, and said her professor trained her well to use it.
"This has given me confidence in myself, and it gives me something to look forward to each week," she said. "Dr. Kasem really invests time into his students, so we can get good results and contribute."
In addition to co-authoring the paper, she presented their research at the IUPUI Undergraduate Research Conference, and at the IU Kokomo Spring Research Symposium.
Eventually, Ramey plans to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry, but first will work for a while, preferably in a lab.
"I want to do some kind of research," she said. "I like forensics, so that is a possibility."
Ramey, from Noblesville, is proud not only of her research, but of the example she sets for her nine-year-old son. She returned to IU Kokomo in 2011, after an eight year hiatus when she married and started her family.
"I knew I would regret not finishing my degree," she said. "When I become a chemist, I am showing my son that you don't have to keep your life on hold, you can work hard, grab opportunities, and achieve your goals."
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.