Leading the Way

Christian Seitz ’16 conducted research that could allow future scientists to improve paints and plastics, make cheaper rubber and reduce greenhouse gases.

Christian Seitz ’16 came to Elon with the will to change the world through scientific discovery. Through multiple undergraduate research projects at Elon, Caltech and RWTH Aachen University in Germany, he has managed to do just that.

After his first semester, Seitz was invited to enroll in Chemistry 112, a special course for the top 15 first-year chemistry students. He dove into research and was awarded the Lumen Prize, Elon’s top award for undergraduate research and creative achievement, along with a Glen Raven scholarship for undergraduate research. His two-year research project explored enolate anions, important molecules in organic chemistry containing oxygen and carbon.

During his research, he learned why other molecules are more attracted to the oxygen molecule in the enolate anion than the carbon molecule in the enolate anion. His work could allow future researchers to improve paints and plastics, make cheaper rubber and reduce greenhouse gases.

Seitz was one of 400 students selected out of 5,000 applicants for the 2015 Amgen Scholarship program. Organized by top faculty at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, the program facilitates undergraduate research at esteemed universities across the nation. Seitz conducted research at the California Institute of Technology, one of the world’s leading chemistry research institutions, where he studied the 3D structure of molecular bases within the human nose that allow humans to detect scent.

Seitz applied lessons learned at Elon to his research at Caltech. “His project built off of prior knowledge and experience that he gained while here, both in his coursework and in his research with me conducting computational chemistry studies,” said associate professor Joel Karty, Seitz’s Lumen Prize mentor.

Seitz also spent a summer conducting research at RWTH Aachen University in Germany, where he performed polymer syntheses to improve cancer treatment with a team of graduate students studying interactive materials. He has presented his research twice at both the National Conferences on Undergraduate Research and the American Chemical Society national meeting.

The fact that I went to what’s easily regarded as one of the top chemistry universities in the world is something that’s still very hard to believe. This program immersed me with some of the brightest minds around, stimulating my own intellectual curiosity and motivating me to do whatever it takes to become a top chemist.

In addition to his passion for chemistry, Seitz identifies himself as “Elon’s only French-speaking superstar chemistry tutor and violin virtuoso.” He was inducted into Pi Delta Phi, the National French Honor Society, and was an alternate for a Fulbright Scholar award.

Seitz is enrolled in a doctoral program in biochemistry and biophysics at the University of California, San Diego, working to design drugs for rare diseases.