The Excitement of Discovery

Rollins Alumni Make Important Contributions to the Sciences

By Kristen Manieri
Photos by Judy Watson Tracy

Laveta Stewart. Photo by Judy Watson Tracy.

Laveta Stewart ’00

“I hope I will remain a student, in some way, forever; you never finish learning.”

Major: Chemistry

Laveta Stewart has been excited by science for as long as she can remember. At Rollins, the Philip and Peggy Crosby Scholar spent her years divided between the laboratory and the soccer field, always glad she was never forced to choose. But it wasn’t until she traveled on a first-year service-learning trip to the Dominican Republic with Professor of Chemistry Pedro Bernal that her path clearly came into focus. “This trip lit a passion for using science to help people in resource-poor settings,” said Stewart, who traveled to the Dominican Republic five more times during her undergraduate career. International impact… Stewart’s trips to the Dominican Republic were mostly focused on developing and evaluating the sustainability of water purification systems in rural areas. “I was out taking water samples from rivers, definitely getting my hands dirty, interacting with the people, and using whatever lab settings I had available.” A passion for public health… “I love the lab, but I love working with and for people at the population level,” said Stewart, who earned her master’s of public health from Saint Louis University in 2003. While she was a training fellow at the National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, she was introduced to immunology and traveled to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to pursue her master’s in immunology of infectious diseases. More globetrotting… In 2007, Stewart traveled to Africa to work on her thesis, which estimated malaria transmission intensity using serological markers from eight clinic sites in Tanzania. “This is when I started to become really interested in merging public health and immunology. For me, the logical research path was the immunoepidemiology of vaccines.” Current pursuits… Now, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, she is currently working on her dissertation in rural Nepal assessing the direct and indirect protective effects of maternal influenza immunization on pregnant women, infants, and non-vaccinated household members. “For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to work abroad in developing countries, focusing on helping vulnerable populations. The Dominican Republic experience and the scientific methods I learned as a chemistry student at Rollins were the first steps toward a career in international public health.”

Patricia Carroll Sanchez. Photo by Judy Watson Tracy.

Patricia Carroll Sanchez ’97

“Every day there is some new and different data to look at, some new question to answer.”

Major: Mathematics

Patricia Carroll Sanchez is not one to be pigeon-holed. In fact, tell her she can’t do something and she’ll do it just to prove you wrong. “Growing up, I always found math easy to understand. As I got older and heard ‘girls are bad at math,’ I stuck to math and science as a way to disprove stereotypes.” Current occupation… Mathematical statistician for the U.S. Census Bureau. Why statistics… “Statistics isn't just a natural science, it can also be a social science. Currently, I'm interested in studying people. When I worked in market research, I studied the products and services that people consume. Now working for the government, I study who the American people are and where and how they live.” Favorite moment of discovery… “I was very excited to be a part of Census 2010. The counting of 300+ million people is an extremely large project, and I am very proud of the part I played in its implementation.” Area of expertise… Her concentration is survey research. “I focus on figuring out the best questions to ask to collect the data needed.” Respect for liberal arts learning… Sanchez believes her liberal arts education helped shape her oral and written communication skills. “Writing journal articles, presenting at conferences, testifying in front of Congress—these things take more than just scientific knowledge.” In her spare time… “I read, watch TV, knit, volunteer at my church, and spend as much time as I can with my daughter.” Science hero… Albert Einstein.He is the original ‘rock star’ of physics and the sciences. People who can't even spell physics know that even if they have no idea what it means.”

Donald Griffin. Photo by Judy Watson Tracy.

Donald Griffin ’64 P'95 P'98

“If you are doing science, you have to be involved in it; it’s not something you can learn by sitting and watching.”

Major: Physics

It’s been three years since Professor Emeritus of Physics Donald Griffin officially retired from his 39-year teaching tenure at Rollins. At 28, Griffin had returned to campus to fulfill his dream of teaching in a liberal arts setting. “Contact between students and faculty is key. Faculty at big research schools do not get their rewards from teaching but from doing research. I wanted to teach.” Griffin ended up doing both—teaching alongside his former professors as well as conducting theoretical research in nuclear fusion based on a grant from the U. S. Department of Energy, research he continues to do today. His love of the interdisciplinary approach… “I spent as much time with the people in the philosophy and history departments as I did with my physics colleagues,” said Griffin, who team-taught classes for non-science majors with one of his favorite professors, Herb Hellwege. “He was probably one of the best professors I have ever known.” Published research… The Rollins and Purdue graduate has published more than 180 papers with colleagues from institutions across the country. A passion for collaborative research… “I think one of the big things you get at Rollins is the chance to do research with faculty,” said Griffin, who often thought of his pupils more as colleagues than students. “Students are here doing research when they are sophomores. By the time they graduate, they have done as much work and published as much as many grad students.” His science hero… Though Griffin has met a handful of Nobel Prize winners, he was most influenced by Bob Cowan, whom he worked with at Los Alamos National Laboratory during the completion of his Ph.D. research and then afterwards during the summers as a visiting scientist. “Bob always emphasized how being able to talk and write about your work is just as important as doing your work. He taught me that if you cannot write clearly about your research, no one will ever know about it.”

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