A passion for environmental chemistry and oceanography
Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement.
At the recent School of Molecular Sciences (SMS) Awards Ceremony, , Professor Ariel Anbar described for all in attendance a phone conversation from two years ago he had, sitting in his driveway with Logan Tegler (current SMS Dean’s Medalist), who was extremely keen to do summer research in his lab. Tegler described herself as majoring in English and chemistry, which initially made Anbar a little nervous — but he was struck by Tegler’s intelligence, persistence and politeness, so he welcomed her into his lab and has never regretted it.
“Logan’s been an exceptional member of my research team since the start of her sophomore year," Anbar said. "It has been a pleasure to see her develop a passion for isotope geochemistry and chemical oceanography. This interest ultimately led her to a summer internship at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), where she forged a new research partnership between my lab and one of their research groups that is breaking important new ground in understanding the chemistry of ancient oceans. Logan has a very bright future ahead of her!”
Tegler described some of her work.
“After my sophomore year, the graduate student I was working with (Alyssa Sherry) spent the summer as a student of BIOS program in Bermuda,” Tegler said. “While she was gone, I took over the project and characterized the iron isotopic composition in ponderosa pine trees in an effort to understand the importance of biomass burnings' influence on the budget of iron to the open ocean.
“At the end of the summer, I generated enough data to present my results at the 2017 Fall American Geophysical Meeting. At this meeting, I met Dr. Tristan Horner, who I subsequently wrote an NSF GRFP with, and who will serve as one of my PhD advisers at the MIT/WHOI Joint Program. This accomplishment was particularly meaningful because it not only allowed me to refine my laboratory and presentation skills, but also set me on the path toward my doctoral degree!”
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: As a college freshman, I started as a dual major in chemistry and journalism with the goal of becoming a science writer. However, while I loved taking classes in both fields, I started to really enjoy the lab components of my classes. So, as a sophomore, Dr. Ariel Anbar and his lab manager, Steve Romaniello, took me on a tour of the Anbar lab, where I had the opportunity to talk with several graduate students and learn about the research questions they were trying to answer. After I left the lab, I very clearly remember calling my parents and saying, “I’m going to be a scientist.”
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective
A: One of the best parts of my undergraduate career was that I had the chance to expand my horizons by taking classes in science and the liberal arts. During my junior year I was fortunate enough to take two courses taught by Dr. Lee Bebout: Whiteness and Critical Race Theory and Transborder Chicano Literature. This class not only helped me to expand my understanding on race and inequality, but also informed me about the lack of diversity in STEM fields. As I move forward in chemistry, I hope to take what I learned in these classes and fight to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to excel in science.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: During the spring break of my senior year of high school, my dad and I went on a Devil’s Advocates tour of the campus. The tour gave me a chance to see the opportunities I would have as a Sun Devil. After the tour ended, my dad and I decided to walk through the chemistry building. Almost by luck (or maybe by fate) we ran into the associate chair of the department. He spent over an hour telling us about the academics, the professors and the research opportunities I would have if I enrolled in the School of Molecular Sciences. I enrolled in the freshman class as soon as I got home.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Take chances and believe in yourself! While in college, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to apply for internships, take challenging classes and answer exciting questions. These opportunities will often seem scary at first — the first time I was left alone in the lab, I was terrified that I would destroy the samples with one wrong move. However, oftentimes you are much smarter and more qualified than you will give yourself credit for. If you ever find yourself wondering if you can take on a challenge that seems insurmountable — do it! You might be surprised at how well you do.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: My favorite spot to study is at the Starbucks at the Memorial Union. In addition to close proximity to caffeine, I particularly enjoy studying here because I never know who I’ll run into. During my four years, I’ve met many classmates and friends who are always willing to take a break from studying and talk about their passion for their chosen field (be it in science, literature, history or others)!
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: After graduation, I’ll be attending the MIT/WHOI Joint Program with the assistance of a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. I’ll be working with Drs. Tristan Horner and Sune Nielsen to understand the sources and cycling in iron in the southern ocean in an effort to understand irons relationship to global climate change over the last 90 million years. After my PhD, I hope to continue on to a faculty position where I can inspire young scientists and continue working on exciting research questions.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: One of the most important problems facing academia is the inaccessibility of research and careers to underprivileged communities. Currently, there are many brilliant young minds that are dissuaded from entering into higher education because of their race, gender or socioeconomic status. Therefore, I would use the $40 million to create youth programs to give students the tools (such as tutors, coursework, academic counselors and scholarship information) they need to excel academically. If these students are encouraged and given the resources they need, they could help solve the challenges facing our planet.