#ElonGrad 2022 spotlight: Samantha Eastman, biochemistry

In this series, Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences is shining the spotlight on distinguished members of the Class of 2022 from a wide array of disciplines.

Samantha Eastman sitting on a lawn at Duke University, where she will pursue a Ph.D in Chemistry.Elon College Fellow Samantha Eastman ’22 graduated with a bachelor of science in biochemistry with minors in psychology and neuroscience.

She served as president of Elon’s chapter of Phi Lamda Upsilon chemistry honor society, student vice president of Phi Kappa Phi honor society and the president of Elon’s chapter of the American Chemical Society student association. Eastman was a recipient of the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Women in Science Scholarship in August 2020. Eastman is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Beta Beta Beta and Psi Chi honor societies.

How did you choose your biochemistry major?

I have been passionate about science for as long as I can remember. I like being challenged, and by pursuing studies in the sciences I can search for the answers to difficult questions while helping people in a more indirect way than being a medical doctor. I actually came to Elon as a biology major, but after just a few weeks in General Chemistry I, my professor, Dr. Tony Rizzuto, told me a really cool quantum chemistry fact and I was hooked! Very shortly after, I switched my major to biochemistry and I have absolutely loved it!

What was your research topic?

My research is the continuation of previous research conducted in Dr. Jen Dabrowski’s lab focusing on the structural determination of a transition metal-antibiotic complex called vanadium-tetracycline. I chose this project because of its relevance to the fight against antibacterial resistance. In working on this project, I have felt like I am making a positive impact on the world and that this research could be used one day to help people.

I presented my research at SURF Day in 2021 and 2022, and I also presented at the Southeastern Regional Meeting of the American Chemical Society in November 2021 and at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society in March 2022.

Did you have a mentor or professor you worked closely with? How has that relationship enhanced your Elon experience, furthered your goals, or helped you grow?

Who were your mentors and how have they influenced you?

There are three professors who have been instrumental in my success at Elon. The first of these is Dr. Rizzuto. He introduced me to chemistry and helped me realize my true passion for chemistry research. He has been my academic advisor for 3.5 years and I am so thankful for his guidance and mentorship throughout my career at Elon. The second is Dr. Dabrowski, my research mentor. She has been critical in my professional development and helping me prepare for and pursue a career in research. And last, but certainly not least, is Dr. Dan Wright, who has been a professor, unofficial advisor, and mentor for me throughout my four years at Elon.

I am so lucky to be able to call all three of these professors not only mentors, but friends. I am eternally grateful for them as they have helped me when I struggled and celebrated my achievements. They have seen me as a person first and a student second, and that mindset they share has helped me grow into the person I am today.

What are your plans following graduation?

Next fall I am going to Duke University to get my doctorate in chemistry.

What experiences were most valuable to you at Elon?

I think some of the most valuable experiences were being a chemistry tutor and lab assistant for several chemistry courses, including general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. I really enjoy chemistry and through these positions I have been able to share and instill a similar enthusiasm in my peers. Chemistry is often seen as an intimidating beast of a class – and don’t get me wrong, it is difficult – but the look on a student’s face when I can help them understand a concept and realize that chemistry is an attainable subject is simply unparalleled. It has been so rewarding to share my passion with others and I feel that that experience has been a particularly defining moment in my undergraduate career.

What advice would you share with future Elon students?

Build a strong support system. College is hard for a multitude of reasons. There will be many, very high points but also some really low points. You need people to be there for you and help you get through these four years. My support system has included family, Elon College Fellows, friends from my biochemistry major cohort, and even professors. I could not have made it through college without these people taking an interest in my life and making sure I am taking care of myself. I am forever grateful for everyone in my support system as they have made Elon a true home away from home.