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Chemistry seniors plan careers in research, teaching

April 13, 2015
KOKOMO, Ind. — The Hunt Hall laboratories produce future leaders and teachers in the field of chemistry.

Indiana University Kokomo seniors Nick Daanen and Heather Ramey both will continue their studies in graduate programs after graduating in May.

Daanen, from Kokomo, earned admission to the Ph.D. program in chemistry at IU Bloomington, while Ramey, Noblesville, begins her master’s degree at Ball State University.

Both have been research assistants with Kasem Kasem, professor of chemistry. Daanen won a research award at the IU Kokomo Undergraduate Research Symposium for work completed with Kasem, while Ramey has published multiple journal articles with him.

Daanen, 22, who will graduate with degrees in chemistry and biological and physical sciences, also has a graduate teaching assistantship that will cover his tuition.

His goal is to work with alternative energy sources, designing the solar cells and materials used for them. He’s had experience in those areas, working six semesters as a research assistant with Kasem.

“A lot of his research is based on electrochemistry,” said Daanen. “As I started to do this research, and saw the real life aspects, it started to become more interesting. You can apply it to real life.”

He likes chemistry because it forces critical thinking.

“Instead of memorizing facts, you have to understand how processes work,” he said. “Gaining a deeper understanding of components of chemicals makes it interesting. The possibilities chemistry has to offer are virtually unlimited. It surrounds us in our daily lives.”

Daanen has been a successful chemistry student, winning a poster presentation award at the annual IU Kokomo Student Research Symposium in 2014, and presenting at the IU Undergraduate Research Symposium. He also had an internship with Tate’s Soaps and Surfectants, a Kokomo-based company that creates more environmentally friendly soaps and degreasers.

In addition to his academic work, Daanen is a founding member of the campus fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau, was a tutor, was acting associate director of the Student Athletic and Wellness Board, and is a justice for the Student Government Association.

As a graduate student, he looks forward to researching as part of a team.

“A lot of the research I’ve done here has been one-on-one,” he said. “It will be interesting to work with other students.”

After completing his Ph.D., Daanen wants to work in industry to gain experience, and then teach at the college level.

“I like that you can help students grasp something that is hard to handle, just seeing the ‘Aha!’ moment when they get it,” he said.

Ramey, 32, plans to work in industry for a while after completing her master’s degree, and then wants to earn a Ph.D. She chose Ball State to focus on research.

“It’s a good fit for me, because they are very research minded,” she said. “I like electrochemistry, and biochemistry, and combining different aspects of chemistry together.”

She’s worked in the biochemistry and organic chemistry labs on campus, and has researched with Kasem since 2012.

Ramey first came to IU Kokomo in 2002, planning to be a nurse. After a year, she realized that wasn’t what she wanted to so, and took some time away from school to determine what interested her.

“I had really enjoyed my general chemistry class, so when I came back in 2011, I chose it as my major,” she said. “I like the mechanisms, and I like how it works.”

Her May graduation is a victory for her, as a survivor of post traumatic stress disorder, stemming from an assault. She couldn’t afford counseling, but accessed the personal counseling services available to students, which have helped her recover.

“If I gave up on my goals and dreams because of what happened, they win,” she said. “I’ve used it as an incentive to keep going on. I did what I had to in order to survive, and I got help. I’ve gotten back to the life I would have had if I hadn’t been attacked.”

She’s published one journal article with Kasem, and has two more approved for publication.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 04/13/2015