In April 2019, Erin Panczyk, a fourth-year PhD candidate studying analytical chemistry, was announced as one of Ohio State's 150 Sesquicentennial Scholars — 32 of which are in the Arts and Sciences. The Sesquicentennial Student Leader Scholarship program aims to increase access and affordability, as well as recognize students’ academic and non-academic accomplishments and diverse interests.
Why did you choose your major?
After receiving my undergraduate degree in biochemistry at Marietta College (Marietta, Ohio), I went straight to work in a pharmaceutical lab. However, after a while I became incredibly bored at how restrictive and repetitive the work was. I wanted to be more involved in research and development of analytical instrumentation. That is, not just using an instrument, but taking it apart and adding new technology to answer different biological questions. The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Ohio State offers excellent research facilities and resources, making it an easy choice for the next step in my education.
What does being a Sesquicentennial Scholar mean to you?
Ohio State's sesquicentennial is a celebration of the university's past, but also looking forward to where Buckeye Nation is going next. To me, the future lies in research advancement. I am currently apart of an NIH $6.8 million dollar grant to establish a National Resource for Native Mass Spectrometry Guided Structural Biology. Now what exactly does that mean? In professor Vicki Wysocki's research group, we are developing novel mass spectrometry techniques to probe the structures of protein complexes, which can provide direct insight into protein function and malfunction. We then take these developments and offer them to or initiate collaborations with research groups around the world. The work we are performing here at Ohio State is reaching beyond Columbus to answer biomedical research questions.
Explain what you love about being in the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio State.
There are many great things about the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio State. First, the faculty and staff are supportive and encouraging. One of the main reasons I chose Ohio State for my graduate education was the high number of female faculty members in the department of chemistry and biochemistry. They have served as both my role models and mentors on an incredibly challenging journey. Additionally, the research facilities are outstanding. When we give laboratory tours to visitors, they are always impressed. Being involved in cutting-edge research requires cutting-edge technology and instrumentation.
How do you hope to inspire the next generation?
During my undergraduate education, my biochemistry professor was very enthusiastic and passionate about her research and academic career, and her excitement about chemistry was passed onto me. When I reached out to her about applying to graduate school, she was supportive and helpful at every step, offering both educational and life advice. I hope that the undergraduate students I have taught at Ohio State find that same passion and excitement about chemistry. It is easy to get caught up in how much you hate lab reports or attending lectures, but the science of chemistry is truly amazing — and you occasionally get to blow something up, which is always fun.