Gitre, '14, Goes West for Chemistry Research Experience

Haley Gitre worked in Cliff Harris' lab during the 2012-2013 academic year.
Haley Gitre worked in Cliff Harris' lab during the 2012-2013 academic year leading up to her UC-Davis summer internship.

August 21, 2013

The object of the sport of volleyball is to keep the ball from hitting the floor. It requires a combination of teamwork, communication and balance.

Haley Gitre, '14, knows all about balance. The Dean's List student and defensive specialist on the Albion College volleyball team has successfully pursued interests in the classroom, in the lab, and on the court. A three-time Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Academic Honor Roll selection, Gitre has balanced the demands of working with a team of Albion students researching new methods for creating useful chemicals with her membership in Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, in addition to her sport.

The Commerce Township, Mich., native was rewarded for her academic efforts by being selected to work in Jared Shaw’s lab this summer at the University of California-Davis. The internship was sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program.

Gitre worked on methodology that could potentially lead to the syntheses of biologically active natural products. She said the experience was a great alternative to studying abroad—something she could not fit into her schedule—and provided an opportunity to discover what might be of interest in terms of planning her career.

“Working in the lab at UC-Davis will allow me to see other aspects of the field of chemistry and see what interests me,” Gitre said.

Armed with an outgoing personality, Gitre finds it difficult to imagine a career on the research bench. In fact, she believes the competitive fire she has developed during her athletic career coupled with the need for personal connections is guiding her toward a career in sales.

Gitre says she has had a longtime affinity for science.

“I’ve been drawn to science since middle school,” she added. “I like organic chemistry, I like synthesis. Chemistry is challenging, but it’s not too challenging where I don’t understand it.”

Gitre’s advisor, professor Cliff Harris, describes her as smart, talented and disciplined. Since 2003, students in Harris’ lab have been focused on finding why potassium permanganate, a chemical compound used to tear molecules apart, became like a molecular glue when introduced to organoboron compounds.

Gitre and classmates Robert Wells-Schmidt, Jillian McManaman and Brendan Wass ran new experiments last fall that led to the discovery that a compound produced as a byproduct of the original reaction was causing the unexpected chemistry.

“Haley brings the same discipline from the volleyball court to the chemistry lab,” Harris said. “She can handle a lot at the same time. She is a good example of the liberal arts. Albion has offered her multiple opportunities.”

In fact, Gitre said she promoted the multiple opportunities Albion provided during the internship application process.

“The applications asked for two reference letters and I asked Coach Kristin de St. Aubin to submit a letter on my behalf,” Gitre said. “I went with the tagline from the NCAA commercials where the student-athlete says, ‘We all go pro in something other than sports.’”