(Portland, Ore.)—Frances Delaney BA ’08 believes there is an advantage to studying science at a small college. By the time she won Lewis & Clark’s highest academic honor this month, she had devoted countless hours to the study of chemistry and spent more than a year and a half in laboratories, engaging in research.
“I think had I gone to a larger school, like Berkeley, I may not have studied chemistry,” the San Francisco native said. “In that setting, the professors don’t have time to talk to their students, and maybe one in 100 students gets to do research at the undergraduate level. At Lewis & Clark, the undergraduates are the lab; there’s no one else but the professor, and, frequently, the students are in charge of their day-to-day assignments, tasks, and experiments.”
The liberal arts environment also encouraged Delaney to pursue coursework in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. She initially toyed with the idea of a major in psychology, a discipline she considers akin to chemistry.
“They both have puzzle-like qualities to them, but I think chemistry has a bit more, and that’s what I really like about the subject,” Delaney said. “I like to solve puzzles and figure out how things work. Psychology figures out how humans work; chemistry figures out how molecules work. They’re actually quite similar.”
Beyond her diverse academic pursuits, Delaney also tutored organic chemistry students, played violin in the orchestra, and joined the Student Academic Affairs Board (SAAB), the student-led grant-making organization.
“It was really rewarding to see things like the senior art exhibition and know that SAAB was able to fund those projects,” she said. “I was happy to be a part of helping people achieve such ambitious goals.”
Presenting Delaney the 2008 Rena J. Ratte award, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Julio de Paula commended her contributions to the laboratory, classroom, and community.
“Franny has a passion for knowledge and has learned that taking risks is essential to intellectual development,” de Paula said. “She has achieved greatness as a student, scholar, teacher, and leader.”
Delaney graduated summa cum laude with departmental honors this month, and she plans to pursue graduate work in chemistry or a law degree.
The Rena J. Ratte Memorial Award, established in 1970 by the colleagues, students, and friends of the late Rena Ratte, commemorates the distinguished philosophy professor by annually honoring one undergraduate senior whose work is consistently of the greatest distinction.