A Passion for Teaching
Ellie ByersClass of 2020 • Bel Air, Maryland
- Caring For Kids
- Student Environmental Alliance
“I’ve wanted to teach since even before I went to school, which doesn’t make sense, but just, like, forever,” says Ellie Byers. “But I didn’t know what I wanted to teach until I took chemistry in high school.”
Ellie was drawn to the small, tight-knit community of Washington College in general, but specifically to the Department of Chemistry, where she has flourished. The president of the chemical honor society and a tutor and course mentor for chemistry in the Office of Academic Skills, Ellie also shared her enthusiasm for chemistry with students in the local middle and high schools. Last fall, she secured an internship at The Gunston School through the chemistry department.
You might call her single-minded. Ellie decided to use her Senior Capstone Experience to conduct a green chemistry experiment that she could then turn into a lab for high school students. Working with Prof. Anne Marteel-Parish, Ellie devised a bio-mimicry experiment using waste cooking oil from the College’s Dining Services and blue cheese to mimic the anti-bacterial compound found in preen oil—the oil that birds use on their feathers.
“The mold in blue cheese has the chemistry necessary to make anti-bacterial compounds,” Ellie explains. “And its waterproof, because it’s oil. So, the students can test those properties and see how they can turn something like waste cooking oil—something that might otherwise end up in landfills and contaminate our waterways—into something that’s going to have beneficial properties.”
She gives as an example a phone coating. The bio-mimicked preen oil would only provide waterproofing but anti-bacterial property as wel
Ellie is especially grateful to the chemistry department faculty members.
“They are the heart and soul of the department, and they are the best part of having to go to class,” she says. “They really make sure that you know it’s not just about memorization and learning things for tests. It’s about how you can apply these things and understand how these are going to be helpful in your future career, whatever that is. That’s something I’m super thankful for, because they really know their students and can target specific topics to what you might interested in.”