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Christian Schwantes ('10)

Changing the conversation about chemistry

Photo: Christian Schwantes

Christian Schwantes wants to change the conversation about chemistry. "Science is becoming more interdisciplinary," says the senior who plans to be a research chemist, possibly in education. "Labs hire biologists, chemists, physicists to work on the same problem." Each uses a different language. "In chemistry we decant instead of pour. In medicine, we perform phlebotomies instead of test blood. Language drives the gap between scientists and everyone else." At JMU, the double major in math and chemistry has learned the importance of communication while working on a multidisciplinary problem. His team is researching chemistry's role in a symbiotic relationship between bacteria and amphibians. From the important work, he's co-authored and published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology and the International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal. In September, he will present at the International Society of Chemical Ecology conference in Switzerland. "I love chemistry," he says, "and I want to share that with the world."

"I hope I can change how people regard chemistry. JMU has helped me realize that change, however small, is important."