Alumni Profile: A rewarding partnership Chemistry grad's research partnership with prof led to NSF Fellowship

A rewarding partnership
Nate Romero was a Beckman Scholar and Goldwater Scholar while at Calvin. Before he graduated, he earned a NSF grant for graduate research at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Nate Romero began his research career as a Beckman scholar and continued on to win a Goldwater scholarship and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship—all before he left Calvin. He credits the accessibility of his professors for shaping such a college experience. 

“I met Professor [Carolyn] Anderson in the fall semester of my freshman year. We began to connect on the subject of faith and science in organic chemistry lab,” recounted Nate. But what began as conversations around class-assigned books quickly turned into an after-class reading group. 

Thought-provoking books on faith and science kept Nate, his lab partner, Professor Anderson and several other students talking for the next two years. 

“The faculty are obviously committed to a high level of scholarship … and Calvin students always seem willing to engage the faculty in their challenge to live faith-centered, holistic lives,” Nate says. 

Such open faculty-student dialogue left Nate without hesitation when he was nominated to apply for a research grant that would fund 15 months of organic chemistry research. He knew just whom to ask for advice. “Professor Anderson probably saw that my interest in chemistry might be well suited to research before I did,” explained Nate. “I didn’t know a whole lot about the research opportunities at the time.” 

Anderson brought Nate alongside her in the research she was currently working on—creating synthetic organic molecules. Based on what he learned from Anderson’s research, Nate wrote a proposal that would take her research to a next level. 

And that’s exactly where it went when Nate won the research grant, kick-starting a very successful undergrad research career. 

“Calvin has prepared me very well for a career in chemistry by exposing me to research and simply giving me access to a high level of education. Even more importantly, I’ve been challenged to grapple with questions I will face throughout my life—how to balance my career with my faith, my family; how to engage people who are different than me; how to learn and ask the right questions.” 

Currently at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Nate is working toward his PhD in chemistry and is hoping to follow that up with postdoctoral research and a career as a professor, partnering with the next generation of aspiring chemists.

VERGE: winter 2012

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