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Graduating chemistry student’s health resulted in passion for science, remarkable accomplishments

Ellen Streitwieser

Ellen Streitwieser.

April 22, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

Ellen Streitwieser’s interest in chemistry started out very personally, the result of an autoimmune disorder and metabolic failure.

“After experiencing a profound dysfunction in my own body’s biochemical function, I found a driving curiosity to understand the ‘why’ of how my body works," Streitwieser said.

She transferred into ASU’s online biochemistry program, which allowed her to continue her education while on the road to recovery. Even after her health struggles resolved and faded, her passion for chemistry did not. In fact, through one class, computational chemistry and biochemistry, taught by Professor Abhishek Singharoy, Streitwieser discovered a love for computational research.

“I realized that there was research occurring at ASU that elegantly combined my varied interests in biochemistry, neuroscience, physics and computer science,” Streitwieser said. “Working with Dr. Singharoy has shown me a model for scientific inquiry that values a collaborative, team approach and has encouraged me to see my own potential as a scientist. His mentorship has fundamentally shaped the scientist I am today.”

Streitwieser also credits Ara Austin, director of the School of Molecular Science's online programs, for her mentorship and guidance.

“Dr. Austin was one of my organic chemistry professors and saw my potential at a time I hadn’t recognized it within myself. Over the past two years she has encouraged me to go after my goals and has been instrumental in my applying for internships, scholarships, tutoring positions, research opportunities and PhD programs.”

Streitwieser has developed into a young scientist whose talent is being recognized. She was the 2019–2020 recipient of the ACS Division of Organic Chemistry Undergraduate Award, the 2020 recipient of the School of Molecular Sciences Women in Science Scholarship, and also received a 2021 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program Honorable Mention.

This year, Streitwieser was honored as the recipient of the prestigious 2021 School of Molecular Sciences Dean’s Medal, recognizing her scholastic achievements.

“I am honored to have been selected for this award, especially as an online student and really feel it is the capstone achievement to my time at ASU,” said Streitwieser.

Helping others is important to Streitwieser. While at ASU she worked as a teaching assistant for organic chemistry and tutored in the online learning resource center. Being an online student and helping online students allowed her to see a need that she developed into a valuable resource. Together with other students, Streitwieser founded the IDEAS Student Society, a club for ASU Online science students to meet and connect with one another. Founded in 2019, the club now has over 700 members.

“Our weekly virtual events have kept me sane while completing my degree and applying to PhD programs,” Streitwieser said. “The friends I have found there will be with me for life.”

Pursuing a PhD in neuroscience is Streitwieser’s next step. With support and encouragement from professor Singharoy and others, Streitwieser was accepted into nine PhD programs, including Uuniversity of California, San Diego; Berkeley; Johns Hopkins; ASU; and the University of Washington, among others.

“In 2018, as an online student just starting at ASU, I never imagined I would one day be viewed as a competitive candidate at this level,” Streitwieser said. “I’m proud to say that after graduating from ASU with my bachelor’s in biochemistry, this fall I will be starting my PhD in neuroscience at the University of Washington.”

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