Science For A New Generation
Arielle Hackel and Stephanie Thompson have a passion for discovery they hope will inspire a new generation.
For both chemistry undergrads at Georgia State, that passion comes from always wanting to know how the world works.
Hackel used to drive her mother crazy as a kid, endlessly asking questions, she said.
And she always wanted to know how things worked. For example, she’d pull apart flowers to see what was inside, and she even wanted to see how math problems were solved the long way.
“I’d get frustrated when we’d do shortcuts in math that the teachers couldn’t explain, like adding up all the decimals when you multiplied them,” said Hackel, a student of the university’s Honors College. “I wanted to understand what the long way was.”
Thompson went to a career academy high school, which presented multiple career paths. She chose a path into medical professions, but she, like Hackel, moved into chemistry after meeting Professor Dabney Dixon, a long-time mentor to undergraduates at Georgia State.
Dixon guides students along a path toward graduate-level education through the Professional Science Club at Georgia State, where students learn how to present research to peers and learn from one another.
Thompson’s experiences with Dixon and her fellow students led her from a pre-medical concentration in biology to biochemistry. Hackel’s research focuses on computational chemistry, which uses computers to model chemical reactions through complex mathematical calculations.
The research sounds complex, and to many, pursuing science, whether for education or as a career path, can seem intimidating. That’s where Thompson and Hackel have stepped in, working with the Professional Science Club to promote science literacy to elementary and middle schools.
“We started [the outreach efforts] because we find when you’re a junior or senior, you realize, ‘man, if I only had known what I know now,’” said Thompson, president of the club and a student assistant for the Georgia Science Olympiad.
“We meet young people and try to show them that science is not a scary thing,” Hackel said. “It’s something they themselves can do.”
Both plan to pursue doctorates, computational chemistry for Hackel, and environmental toxicology for Thompson.
Becoming a part of the scientific community, there’s a sense of duty when it comes to reaching out to the public, especially when it comes to communicating new knowledge in understandable language.
“[We] should put more energy into being ambassadors,” Hackel said. “I know a lot of people in the scientific community stay in the scientific community. It’s just that we need to branch out more and interact.”
Written by: Jeremy Craig