Dean Burgmayer recently caught up with department of Chemistry Ph.D. alumnus Benjamin Williams.
Q: What is your current position? What are your primary responsibilities?
A: I am currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of New Mexico. I help guide and advise six graduate students through their research efforts while conducting my own projects in the laboratory of Dr. Martin Kirk. Occasionally, I have the opportunity to mentor undergraduates in our lab, however this is not often since fewer research opportunities for undergrads exist here than at Bryn Mawr. I also maintain the synthetic facility in the laboratory, overseeing equipment maintenance and the general organization of items such as chemicals and other materials.
Q: Reflecting on your time at Bryn Mawr, how did the training you received prepare you for your current position?
A: Bryn Mawr prepared me to thrive at a large research institution. One of my research projects at the University of New Mexico has direct ties to my dissertation work, and therefore I am adept at the procedures and methods required to perform that research. These skills are also applicable to my other projects as well. Furthermore, the mentoring experiences I had with undergraduates at Bryn Mawr prepared me for performing similar functions with the graduate and undergraduate students that I am charged to advise here.
Q: Now that you are at another institution, what do you miss most about Bryn Mawr's unique academic environment?
A: I miss the sense of a close-knit campus community that exists at Bryn Mawr. With a much larger student/faculty population on campus at a larger institution, it's more difficult to form and maintain the close, interdisciplinary relationships I enjoyed during graduate school. Not to say I don't enjoy the people here: I have formed several friendships with wonderful people in my lab and department. It's just a different environment here than the one you experience at a small liberal arts college like Bryn Mawr.
Q: What are your current/upcoming research pursuits? Do these questions tie back to your dissertation research?
A: Of my two research projects, one, understanding the inner chemical processes of molybdenum enzymes during catalysis, has direct ties with my PhD work at Bryn Mawr. My knowledge of this project has allowed me to transition smoothly into this lab while learning new techniques and pursuing alternate research avenues. My other project involves studying metal-containing molecules that have implications in solar power and molecular electronics.
Q: Do you have any recent milestones to share with us?
A: Three undergraduate researchers in our lab whom I have mentored during my time here - two during the summer and one currently - have collectively obtained enough results to produce a publication sometime in the next couple months. While it is an exciting time for them as this will be their first scientific publication, it is also an exciting time for me since I have played an active part in their growth as young scientists.