First-Hand Science

8 Sep

Nazareth biology major Amber Streicher ’11 has studied the properties of molecular switches in an organic chemistry lab. She has experimented with yeast’s sensitivity to ultraviolent light in the biochemistry lab. She has used the instrumentation lab to analyze the bromine content in chocolate, given its toxicity to dogs. And she has done research on possible medicinal properties of salamander secretions, working with biology department chair Dr. Brian Witz.

A chemistry minor who plans to apply to veterinary school, Amber has extensive first-hand experience with the current condition of Nazareth’s scientific facilities.

“The labs are too small and cramped,” she reports. “They can only accommodate a certain number of students, and we are all trying to do the same thing at once. We all need fume hoods at the same time.”

Capturing Ideas

Details of the new Integrated Center for Math and Science have benefited from Amber’s input. “I was involved in helping plan [the center] a little bit,” she says. “The architects were getting students’ opinions. That was really cool. I like the way that the rooms are set up with the glass walls so we can write our reports while we can see our experiments.

“The new building can also accommodate more students in labs more comfortably, and it will increase our ability to use different technologies. Everyone is really excited about it.”

Amber presented her salamander research at a scientific poster session in San Francisco. “Basically  we were with a group from Naz and there were probably over 1,000 posters set up in a big room,” she says. “Scientists come up and talk to you about your poster and ask you questions. It helped me learn to talk about my research and it gave me some new perspectives on different methods and analyses. It was very awesome.”

Nurturing Independent Thought

She credits approachable faculty members for much of her scientific progress. “Dr. Witz is always in his office. He’s very easy to talk to. He answers any questions or refers to you someone else. [Chemistry professor] Dr. [Bill] Lammela is the same way. He is incredibly helpful. He wants you to think on your own first, then ask. That can be intimidating, but it’s good.

“Before going to college, I never knew what a science major would be like. I love it.”

Among Amber’s other loves are her Keeshond, Candy – the two have taken the grand championship at the New York State Fair – and horses. She served as captain of Nazareth’s equestrian team during her sophomore and junior years.

But it all comes back to teaching. “The professors are really always there for you,” Amber said. “You hear that from every college, but it’s definitely true here. I know my professors and can talk to them about anything. That’s important, and it’s something unique about Naz.”

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