Chemistry and forensic science seniors’ legacy of mentorship

For the past four years, the students majoring in chemistry and forensic science have had to overcome many problems, such as the stress and work that already comes with pursuing a college degree that was only exacerbated by a worldwide pandemic. Now, as the seniors prepare to join the more than 17,000 Waynesburg alumni that came before them, some of the faculty and graduating students are taking time to reflect on their time at Waynesburg.

Dr. Evonne Baldauff, chairperson of the chemistry and forensic science department, remembers meeting many of the seniors early on. She described meeting some of the students even before they started taking classes. 

“I remember meeting a lot of our graduating seniors before they even came, so as prospective students, at least three or four out of our department, I distinctly remember meeting, so I feel like I’ve known them even longer than the normal set of students,” she said.

For Noah Delp, a senior chemistry major, Waynesburg was his first and only choice.

“This was the place I wanted to go. I only applied to Waynesburg,” he said. “I kind of realized right away that it is small, I like the ratio of student to professor, I’m able to be in a relationship with some of them where I can just call them Evonne, or Tak, or anything like that. So I can have a close, personal relationship with some of them.”

Delp said that his attention was drawn to Waynesburg by alumni.

“I was very much willing to let God steer me in the direction that I wanted to go in,” he said. “One of my high school teachers, his name is Mr. Robinson, he graduated from Waynesburg in I think the class of ‘80 or ‘84, and his daughter, a good friend of mine, graduated in 2016 as a forensics accounting major. Both of them had nothing but good things to say, and our families are good friends, so I came here to Waynesburg in the summer of 2015 or 2016 and I fell in love.”

Almost as soon as they got here, the class of 2021 made its presence known. According to Dr. Baldauff, one of the things that sets this graduating class apart was its involvement throughout the department early on. 

“They were fun, motivated, and enthusiastic for the past four years. They got involved with the department right from the get-go. They wanted to be actively participating, they hang out [in the chemistry department] all the time,” she said. “They were very present all four years, and I think I speak for all the faculty involved, we’ve gotten to know these students very well despite the pandemic.”

Paige Smith, a senior chemistry major, has been involved with several organizations on campus, both inside of the department and out.

“I have been involved by holding an officer position for our student chapter of the American Chemical Society and student chapter of the Society of Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh,” she said. “I am a member of the Gamma Sigma Epsilon honor society, am on the Woman’s tennis team, and play in the symphonic band, as well as multiple small ensembles.”

Noah Delp, a senior chemistry major, said that he wasn’t heavily involved with the department until after his first semester. After that, however, he was all in.

“The more time I spent here, the more I got to know the professors, he said. “I’ve participated in haunted labs and a couple other things and had a really good time, I’m a member of Gamma Sigma Epsilon, which is an honor society for people who have done well in chemistry-based classes, and just try to stay active up there.” 

Delp has taken advantage of off-campus opportunities provided through the department as well.

“I got involved in our local American Chemical Society chapter, ACS, and I’ve gone to Carnegie, the museum in Pittsburgh, and done a couple of presentations with Evonne and Dr. Davis for kids during a couple of other American Chemical Society weeks,” he said.

Delp is currently working on his capstone research project, which focuses on ultraviolet-visible spectrophotometers. A UV/VIS spectrophotometer is a tool that measures the light absorbed by a sample to determine the concentration, according to an article by Marcleo Luftman for Proanalytics. Delp said that he is working to make the equipment more affordable. 

“We 3-D printed one, the whole idea is to make it more affordable for high schools or undergraduate facilities that don’t quite have the resources that Waynesburg does,” he said. “Long story short, publishing through a peer-reviewed article is what we will end up doing. It’s a lot safer, I guess is the best way to put it. It’s very exciting.”

Delp isn’t the only senior to be conducting research. According to Dr. Baldauff, every senior in the department has participated in research. 

“I think every single one of them has done something here on campus. For research on campus they work with our faculty, and they put in long hours, they’re in their classes, they’re in their labs, and they come in and do their research too,” she said. “It shows their dedication and motivation to take all the resources that we have to offer them, to get the best education that they can while they are here so that they are prepared for the next place they go to.”

The seniors’ mentorship has also stood out to Dr. Baldauff. To her, that is one of the biggest impacts that they have had on the department. 

“They’re very encouraging to the underclass students,” she said. “[Underclassmen] look at them and all the research that they have done, and how dedicated they are, and I think that they influence the behavior of the underclassmen.”

That mentorship is something that Delp values. He prefers working individually with underclassmen students on their own time instead of official tutoring sessions, which he participated in for one semester.

“I don’t feel that a sanctioned tutoring session is what I am best used in,” he said. “ I feel that coming to me with questions, springing them on me in the hallway, when we’re sitting down at lunch, that more relaxed session [is best for me].”

As an example, Delp told a story about helping a freshman write a portion of a lab report. 

“He was in his lab 10-15 minutes early and was worried about it, so I sat down with him and I went through what I would do and related it to my research, so I could give him specific examples, and I feel like in that scenario I flourished a lot more,” Delp said. 

Although each senior will miss different things about Waynesburg University, a common thread that runs throughout is the people. Whether it is friends, roommates, or professors, the seniors share fond memories of the relationships that they have formed.

“My time at Waynesburg has been an amazing experience. I would not have wanted to attend any other school to complete my undergraduate degree,” Smith said. “I will miss the Christian community I have found at Waynesburg, as well as all of my wonderful friends and professors that have helped me grow and supported me these last four years.”

“My roommate is James Galluci, he is absolutely the goofiest kid I have ever met, he has transformed my college career. [I’ll miss] the everyday goofing off, my friends here, Ariana McKinnon, Lexi Reineck, Heather Allaman, Paige Smith, I have a bunch of friends here,” Delp said. “Going to talk to Evonne or Dr. Fletcher to discuss glycolysis or ph balance, and ending the conversation talking about coffee or jet skiing or skateboarding, or running into people that I’ve met in the past, like this professor that I had freshman or sophomore year asking me how I’m doing, how’s life going. I’ll miss the community.”

The sense of community is not lost on Dr. Baldauff, and she describes graduation as a bittersweet feeling. 

“It’s hard because you really do build bonds with your students. They’re here for four years and then they leave, like it’s really exciting to see that they’ve achieved their goals and are graduating, but they’re also not coming back.”

That sense of community has helped the chemistry and forensic science department weather the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Dr. Baldauff, the students and faculty have managed to maintain their relationships.

“We haven’t been able to do any activities until it’s opened up a wee bit in the past month, and it’s been really nice to see them a little bit more, and do one or two things apart from just being in class together,” she said. “I think that it really gave them an appreciation for the benefits of being in a close department, that we were still able to kind of maintain those ties despite the fact that we couldn’t do anything together.”

As the graduating students leave Waynesburg, Dr. Baldauff sees them pursuing a variety of career paths and options, whether that be joining the workforce immediately or continuing their education after they graduate. Specifically, Delp plans to go back to school to become a physician’s assistant, while Smith will be attending Purdue University to earn a master’s degree in food science. As they graduate, Baldauff has some parting words for them.

“Be flexible, whatever comes at you work to adapt, and be resilient. They are all wonderful people and they all have the skills to be successful,” she said. “On behalf of all the faculty and staff in the department, we’ve loved working with them the past four years, and we wish them continued success and hope that they stay in touch.”

This article along with many others are included in the 2021 Commencement Issue of The Yellow Jacket. The full print layout version can be viewed here.