William Paterson University chemistry major Courtnee Aristil ’23 spent a good portion of her summer in an unconventional way. She investigated the use of non-precious metals as less expensive and more environmentally friendly catalysts to carry out the carbon-based transformations used, among other ways, in the creation of medicine.
Aristil had qualified for one of about 30 coveted opportunities that WP provides every summer to its undergraduate minority students: the chance to perform scientific research alongside a WP faculty member and be paid for it. The faculty-student pairings are arranged through the University’s chapter of the Garden State-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (GS-LSAMP), a statewide group committed to increasing the number of underrepresented minorities graduating with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees.
This summer’s research stipends were funded through a grant to the University from the National Science Foundation, along with generous donations from University alumni and the WP College of Science and Health Dean’s Office.
Then-freshman Aristil initially imagined she’d be hands-on in the laboratory with her mentor, chemistry professor Parminder Kaur, but State and University-imposed health restrictions related to COVID-19 wouldn’t allow it when the time came. Instead, Aristil would spend the summer analyzing high-level academic studies on her assigned topic, with oversight from Professor Kaur—remotely.
Aristil, who is part of WP’s Honors College, says she thought the prospect of really learning and caring for her topic in such a fashion would be “impossible.”
But, she was wrong.
“The more I did research on this topic, the more I basically fell in love with it,” Aristil says, citing both documents that Kaur provided along with guided research she performed using the University library databases. “As I read more into these different chemical reactions, I learned so much about learning—not just in the scope of school, but in the scope of the world. You learn about the world by looking at different reactions.”
Aristil, who hails from Colonia, New Jersey, plans to someday pursue medical school and become an anesthesiologist in an organization that provides healthcare to people who would otherwise lack access to it.
A member of the Peer Leaders Program and InterVarsity Black Christian Ministry at William Paterson University, Aristil has already gotten plenty of practice helping others.
As a peer leader, she is matched with an incoming freshman that shares similar interests, serving as a sort of “big sister,” she says. “We help our freshmen learn about and go through campus life.” In the Black Christian Ministry, Aristil works to help Black students and faculty feel welcomed and comfortable on the WP campus.
It’s a campus she loves, and one where she hopes to soon perform in-lab research with Professor Kaur in order to test the hypothesis she formed during her remote work this summer.
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