Student Spotlight: Riley Stephenson

Why did you choose Chemistry?

I chose to study chemistry because I have had some incredible teachers who showed me that chemistry is a deeply creative and engaging field. Chemistry challenges and motivates me to develop my strengths and further prepares me to implement my personal goals in a meaningful way. These goals include a desire to contribute towards a deep and collaborative pursuit of the unknown and to use my experiences to educate and challenge the next generation in the pursuit of wisdom.

How does your engagement in the arts complement what you Think and Do scientifically?

Currently at NC State, I am Minoring in Music with an emphasis in Vocal Performance. Engagement with the arts has showed me that creativity and collaboration among individuals with differences can lead to fun and effective problem solving and discovery.

How have you integrated your passion for service learning into your own student experience?

Service-Learning is an experiential learning technique of teaching that allows students and faculty at NC State to live into the land grant mission of the university, give back to the community, and learn in the process. This semester, I am taking a class entitled Advanced Measurement Techniques. A large part of this class involves participation in an independent research project. For my group project, I am partnering with other scientists and community members to conduct a water quality study of Walnut Creek in the community of Rochester Heights in southeast Raleigh. Rochester Heights was the first subdivision in Raleigh built for African Americans after WWII and has experienced historic trash dumping, sewage dumping, and elevation related pollution. Through this project, I hope to obtain quantitative data to describe the differences in water quality in this area and a more economically affluent area in Raleigh. This data could possibly be used in a public policy setting and set a prescient for Service-Learning related projects in the Measurements class.

What advice would you give today’s young scientists?

Dig deep into the upcoming moments of self-discovery.  As you learn more about the world around you, you’ll learn more about yourself, and that’s a beautiful thing.

Fill in the blank:

If I am not in the lab, I am _____.  Singing opera or musical theater!

In my lifetime, scientists will discover _____.  Green chemistry alternatives to the rare-earth metal catalysts used in industry. The development of environmentally conscious alternatives to the more widespread and well-established rare-earth metal catalysts will be essential to reducing the environmental impact of extraction of elements such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium.

In one word, my experience at NC State has been _____.  Engaging!