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‘You have to be optimistic about research. You might have months and months of frustration and not getting any good results, but then there is one day when you figure things out – and it’s the best day of your life.’

Diana Al Husseini (’15)

Would you say research is rewarding?

Research can take like 10 years to get somewhere, so it’s not as if you’re on a research program or topic and there’s a guarantee that it’s all going to work out the first year. It might take time, and for me things started to really make sense this summer. After working on the same project for years, I started to figure out all the errors and mistakes and technical issues that we were not paying attention to before this summer. And then some research is very sensitive, so if you miss it by one mole or if you did not clean your test tubes really well, your results will not make sense. It’s a great experience, and it will look great on my grad school applications.

Explain your research.

My research is related to the surface temperature of solutions in air or in a hydrophobic type of liquid. So I’ve been using a tensiometer, which is a device that measures the surface tension of the solutions that I prepare. It can be solid solutions or amino acids, and we dispense this solution – which is just a drop – and then measure the surface tension. We get trends because we plot a lot of points and gather a lot of data, and then we watch trend variables such as temperature, concentration, type of solution. So we keep one thing constant and watch for trends, then do analysis and come to a conclusion. And then we change the constant and do it all over again. In the end when it comes to research, it’s usually data, analysis and then conclusion.


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What has doing research taught you about yourself?

A lot of things. When you go into the lab, you have to be focused 100 percent. You have to think about what you are doing right now and, really, nothing else. You must be concise and make your calculations accurately because if you mess something up, all your data will be wrong and you may have wasted expensive chemicals. Also, when I first started doing research, I thought I was going to be doing what my professor said and everything would work out as planned. That never happens. Mistakes and errors are how you learn to do research the right way. We try our best to do it according to the steps we are given, but sometimes it’s a good thing to make mistakes. That’s how you learn. Research is all about learning and trying to figure things out. You read and read and learn, and then go back and fix the problem. You have to be optimistic about research. You might have months and months of frustration and not getting any good results, but then there is one day when you figure things out – and it’s the best day of your life.

Have you had a favorite chemistry class?

I love Physical Chemistry 2. It’s hard-core physics and math with Dr. Isaiah Sumner. I love this class. It just ties everything together. It makes chemistry, physics and math make more sense altogether.

Do you have a favorite professor?

Dr. Yanjie Zhang has been my research professor. She is fabulous. And I took a class with her last semester, too. It was great motivation for me because you want to impress your research professor, so I worked extra hard for that class. It was a physical chemistry class, so more physics- and math-oriented. It can be frustrating because it is so complicated, but Dr. Zhang did a great job and, at the end of the day, when you understand the material, it feels amazing.

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Diana Al Husseini (’15)

Major: Chemistry
Minor: Mathematics
Highlights: Centennial Scholar; Honors student; born in Russia and moved to Lebanon at age 5; was a First-Year Orientation Guide; speaks Russian and Arabic; loves research.

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