Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Chemistry Student Making an Impact

Kay McHugh

Chance Jellinek, a fourth-year chemistry and math major, was named a co-author of “Syntheses and reactivities of polymethylated ferrocenes: The effect of methylation upon electrophilic addition.” Other researchers named on the project were Seattle University Chemistry Professor Eric Watson, current and former students Connor H. Chung, Lucas E. Hill, Nestor M. Iwanojko, Owen S. Lee, and Robert D. Pike, a chemist at William & Mary. The project culminated in a final paper after three years of laboratory data collection and one year of writing and publishing.

Jellinek’s work investigates the structure and stability of certain organometallic compounds, including the previously mysterious heptamethyl ferrocene. Synthetic organometallic chemistry is a notoriously complex field, making the research accomplishment all the more impressive.

With the paper’s publication, Jellinek is now one of few undergraduate students who has achieved authorship in ScienceDirect, a leading scientific research journal. After graduating this spring, he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh.

An abridged version of an interview with Jellinek conducted May 10 follows:

AE: How did you feel while writing the paper, doing the research, finally looking at it and it being published?

CJ: It was a lot of fun. It was my first time ever doing research of any kind. So it was my introduction to that and doing the lab work I really enjoyed. We got to collect data about it and explain things that we saw using numbers. Something that I really enjoyed was that it worked, which is not usually the case in science. Most of the time, the trial and error is a lot of trials and a lot of error, not much success, and this one, I got on it at a really good time, and it just ended up working, and it was really satisfying to be a part of that because it can be frustrating if your experiment isn’t working, and you’re not getting what you want to see. But if it works so nicely, it’s just a lot of fun to have it do what you want.

AE: What are your plans for your future after you graduate? 

CJ: I’m going to be going to the University of Pittsburgh to do a Ph.D. in chemistry starting this fall, and I’m also doing a summer fellowship there. So more chemistry is in my future.

AE: What are your career interests, after graduation?

CJ: I’m not entirely sure yet. A Ph.D. in chemistry generally takes around five years, but up to seven years. I have some time to think about it, it’s a pretty versatile degree. You can go into industry, or you can become a professor, or you can become a researcher. We don’t have those here because it’s not a research university, but big schools have professors who don’t teach. They just do research. I am leaning toward doing academia as a professor, but not entirely sure. 

AE: How did you first get involved with chemistry and science? 

CJ: I wasn’t actually a chemistry major—at first, I was a criminal justice major. My advisor enrolled me in general chemistry in my first quarter. It was my least favorite class I’ve ever taken. I hated it. I have no idea why, but I took the next one, and Professor Verdan is amazing. I went to office hours a lot. She really helped me with the class, and I started finding it more interesting. So then I took her next class in the series. She was like, “You should really think about being a chemistry major.” I was like “That’s an interesting idea.” I took organic chemistry in my sophomore year, which is some people believe to be the hardest class at every university. I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily the case but it’s definitely the hardest class that a lot of people will take but I actually ended up really enjoying it. It’s a really weird class, very different than any other chemistry class you may have taken in high school or something. There aren’t really numbers. It’s all shapes, just kind of weird. It was a lot of fun. It’s very hard, but it’s interesting and rewarding.

AE: What would you tell somebody pursuing the same goal as you in chemistry? 

CJ: I would definitely tell them to look at chemistry. Criminal justice isn’t as broad of a field as forensic science with a chemistry degree, and they actually kind of prefer that. It gives you more options. It gives you a broader background. I think the time at which most people are thinking about changing their major is their first one or two years, those are the worst chemistry classes. I think it could be easy to be dissuaded from changing your major to chemistry during that time. You might, in fact, change to something unrelated to get out of doing that. But I just say, persevere. The fun classes are after that. So you just gotta make it through.

Jellinek’s journey from a criminal justice major unsure of his interests to a chemistry student and a published author in an academic journal proves the transformative power of mentorship. His story illustrates the unexpected paths academic curiosity can lead to and serves as an inspiration to other undergraduates who might find themselves struggling in their initial courses. As Jellinek embarks on his Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh, his experience stands as a reminder that dedication and a willingness to challenge oneself can lead to remarkable achievements.

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