Featured Research Project: From Fringe Trees To Chocolate

Student-faculty research opportunities abound throughout each school year and beyond. Maddie Pawlak '26 and Victoria (Pip) Pipinich '25 studied with Ray Dudek, professor of chemistry.

The two of them measured the seasonal production of oleuropein (an insecticide) in fringe trees, and Pipinich measured the amount of lead and cadmium in dark chocolate as her summer project.

In the Student’s Own Words:

“The best part of doing summer research was the community,” she said. “I was able to connect to the professors and students of the chemistry department on a deeper level, so I feel more confident in that space. It has allowed me to access more resources with little hesitation. In the process, I have learned that I enjoy overcoming setbacks independently. Throughout many challenges in the lab, I did not have the opportunity to receive instant answers to my questions. I was responsible for the steps taken to receive the desired results and it was fulfilling. I also feel fulfilled when trying new experiences. I did not know whether I would like research, so I am proud of myself for applying.

“I chose this research to expand myself,” Pawlak added. “I only had general chemistry experience before this summer, so applying myself in the lab was rewarding to my immediate future. I became far more comfortable with asking and finding answers to questions, as well as understanding laboratory techniques. I also wondered whether to consider graduate school in my post graduate plans. After this summer, I realized that I would likely enjoy the research career setting. Although my goal is medical school, I feel a deeper sense of security in having liked research.”

Maddie Pawlak, class of 2026, from Fort Wayne, Indiana
Biochemistry major; Math and Music minors

“Getting the opportunity to explore Springfield with my classmates and growing closer to the chemistry department was what I enjoyed most with this summer research,” she said. “I have learned the importance of trying new things. I had never been interested in research before, however, after this summer my perspectives drastically changed. This past summer, I was able to explore the lab and approach experimentation in a new way. There were no procedures or guidelines to follow regarding my research and this freedom encouraged me to grow comfortable in a lab setting and ask plenty of questions when I needed help. Research is a great way to exercise independence and prepare for job opportunities in the future.

“I chose this research because I liked how it was a brand-new project to Wittenberg and had never been done before,” Pipinich added. “Because I had no prior research to base my experiments on, I had to use creativity and the team around me to accomplish tasks. I liked the challenge, and the results were rewarding. Over the course of the 10-week program, I had to make adjustments, problem solve, and revise procedures. I loved my project and I hope to be able to expand on it. I cannot wait to see what other students add to it in the years to come.”

Victoria (Pip) Pipinich, class of 2025, from Fort Worth, Texas
Chemistry major; Math minor, Pre-Engineering Program

To see other summer research that was conducted last summer between students and faculty, click here.

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