For some students, college comes naturally; for others, it can be a hard-fought win. Cody Webb is the first to admit that he probably underachieved, while working on an associate's degree at Onondaga Community College. "I decided that, when I enrolled at Le Moyne College, it was time to prove my abilities," says Webb, a chemistry major who also takes chemical engineering courses at Syracuse University.
Since then, Webb's hard work and ambition have the caught the attention of Karin Ruhlandt and Anna O'Brien G'05, chemists at Syracuse University and Le Moyne College, respectively. (Ruhlandt is Distinguished Professor and chair of chemistry, as well as interim dean-designate of The College of Arts and Sciences. O'Brien, one of Ruhlandt's former graduate students, is a newly tenured associate professor of chemistry.) With their support and guidance, Webb has surpassed everyone's expectations, including his own.
We recently caught up with Webb, between his stints as an organic chemistry workshop leader at Le Moyne and a globe-trotting researcher at Syracuse University.
You’re a student at Le Moyne College, but you also take courses at Syracuse University. How does that work?
Webb with Karin Ruhlandt at a research center in Italy
There’s a cooperative program [Chemistry with a Concentration in Pre-Engineering] that enables me to study chemistry full-time at Le Moyne and chemical engineering part-time at Syracuse University. I'll end up with a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Le Moyne and a master's degree in chemical engineering from Syracuse University.
Recently, you presented a paper at a conference in Dallas and, before that, did research with Karin Ruhlandt in Italy. How have those experiences made you a better student?
Attending conferences and going abroad expose you to projects on which the greater scientific community is working. Networking is very important at these events. Many chemists go to conferences to interview for jobs and to learn more about graduate programs to which they may apply.
Personally, these kinds of immersion experiences make me a better student and a better person. When I see other research groups completing their projects and publishing their results, it pushes me to finish mine. Academics are my top priority.
What have you learned from Professor Ruhlandt?
She’s taught me a lot. At our research group’s weekly meetings [at Syracuse University], Dr. Ruhlandt always makes it a point to discuss the more complex aspects of our research projects. This helps us relate complicated ideas to basic principles—something that, in turn, deepens our understanding of chemistry.
Sounds like you're a hard worker.
It has taken me a while to develop the habits and practices that have made me the student I am today. I attribute much of my success to Drs. Ruhlandt and O'Brien, both of whom have supported me and created opportunities for me.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about chemistry?
Many people underestimate the value of chemistry and see it as impractical. In reality, chemistry is all around us, in many aspects of our lives. There’s a lot of chemical research going on that’s solving some of today's biggest problems.
I just found out that I've been accepted to Syracuse University's Ph.D. Program in Chemistry. I couldn't be more excited.