Student Spotlight: Erin Kibby ’22 (Chemistry)
Posted Apr 02, 2021
Erin Kibby, ’22, B.S. Chemistry major with a minor in English literary studies
I am so thankful for Otterbein and all the Chemistry faculty here. I am astounded and so grateful for the many opportunities that I have been given in the Chemistry Department alone. When I was browsing and touring college campuses, my tour at Otterbein just felt different. I was the most comfortable here than on any other tour I had been on, and that was evident in my body language, my affinity to ask questions, and my overall demeanor. My parents told me that they knew that day that Otterbein is where I belonged. What cemented that decision for me was being able to meet about half of the Chemistry Department faculty before my first classes even started. On a visit in the Spring of my Senior year of high school, I interviewed with Chemistry faculty, sat in on an Organic Chemistry class (scary for a high school student to be thrown into Organic II so late in the semester!), and spent some one-on-one time with current Chemistry students. It was clear to me then and has been true throughout my career at Otterbein that everyone in the Chemistry Department is fully committed to me as a student and as a person. In my first year, I was presented with the opportunity to do research with Dr. Johnston in his lab. I was so shocked to be asked, as a freshman, to join a lab and take on a research project that I was the only student on. I grew so much that Spring semester of my Freshman year as a young student taking a Junior-level course and having my first experience in a lab. I felt like a scientist for the first time, and I learned to have confidence in my abilities because I was supported by Dr. Johnston. Without knowing it, he pushed me to believe in myself. I had so many doubts about my capabilities, but I thought “If Dr. Johnston, and my other professors, think that I can do this, that I am up for this, then I must be.” They know better than I what is required of me and if they think I am ready, then I am, whether I fully believe that or not. That first experience with Dr. Johnston continued into the next year in which we compiled our research into a poster to present at the American Chemical Society National Meeting and Expo. I was so excited to go to Philadelphia and be surrounded and completely humbled by the sheer number of Chemists. Unfortunately, that National Meeting was not held in person, but my research poster was still electronically published as a participant of that event.
As a Chemistry Major in the Honors Program, I am now taking on an Honors Thesis Project which requires research in a whole new way. The prospect of new research scares me, but my mentor Dr. Esson is so eager to guide me along the way. We don’t know where this project may take us, which both cripples me with fear, and alleviates stress because I really can’t have any expectations to meet or fail.
Another experience that I love is being a Teaching Assistant for General Chemistry labs. Being a TA gives me the opportunity to help people and particularly help people learn a subject that I am confident in. It makes me proud to be a resource for underclassmen and help them along their journey at Otterbein. General Chemistry is a requirement for many majors, so there is always a diverse group of students in lab, many who are not Chemistry majors and will have very different paths after that course. One of my favorite things about TA-ing is revisiting the lessons and lab experiments that I did not so long ago. I remember first learning these concepts and how it seemed so hard at the time but is now part of my foundational knowledge of chemistry and science. It is so crazy to think about where those foundational topics from Gen Chem have taken me through other Chemistry courses. To be able to help students who are at the beginning of their journey to build confidence and knowledge in a lab setting is such a gratifying experience.
I entered Otterbein as a Chemistry major with an unknown path but knew that the field was so diverse that I would find something that I would take an interest to. The often-repeated mantra of my professors and mentors that I don’t need to know what to do with my life right now, and that there’s still time for me is comforting. The Otterbein Chemistry Department is preparing me for whatever life may bring after graduation, of this I am sure. I also know that I will not realize to what extent the people of the Chemistry Department have shaped and prepared me until I have left this beautiful and comforting place, but I would like to express my thanks for it all.