Organic Matters

Heaven Wade ‘21 outside Ebaugh Laboratories

Heaven Wade ‘21 always knew she wanted to go into the medical field to help people — but she is “not a fan of blood,” so she wisely directed her academic career into research. Lab technician and research assistant positions in her hometown of Chicago are high on her post-graduation list of careers.

At Denison, Wade found her academic home in the biochemistry department. And she especially appreciates the teaching style of Professor Joe Reczek, or “Dr. Joe,” as she calls him.

“Usually in chemistry, we learn all about the discoveries of people who came before us. Dr. Joe makes it exciting by adding new components. He helps us organize our materials in fun ways - like talking about Mama bear and Papa bear.” (Side note, Dr. Joe is a proud papa himself, it’s not too surprising that he incorporates these sorts of references in his lectures.)

Wade’s favorite class? Advanced Organic Chemistry. “We go over the fundamentals, adding a new layer and really getting into the synthesis of the organic materials,” she says. “And we do a lot of interesting labs, plus create our own research experiment at the end of the year.”

During Wade’s senior research project on donor-acceptor columnar liquid crystal, she learned new skills to prepare her for a career in research. “I was able to learn how to use complex machines such as NMR (Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy) and DSC (Differential scanning calorimetry). I’m also able to carry out the skills I gained from previous chemistry classes and apply them to my research.”

On Being a Student of Color in a Natural Sciences Discipline

As a Black biochemistry major herself, Wade would like to see more Black and brown students in her cohort.

“It can be discouraging not to see people like you in the department, but I found some great professors, like Dr. Joe and Dr. Edwards who I could talk to when I doubted my path.”

“Students might get intimidated because they might not have the right chemistry background — but everyone has been there,” she says. “You’re going to make mistakes. Chemistry was not built on perfection, that’s why we’re still learning. As long as you get general concepts you’ll be fine.”

So Wade took the initiative to organize and co-found a new student organization, BLASS: the Black, Latinx, and Asian Science Society. The group hosts different programs each month, holds panels, highlights women, and collaborates with the Knowlton Career Center for GRE prep, MCAT prep and information on building scientific résumés.

She has plenty of background knowledge in running a student organization, Wade is the Chief Minister of Denison’s Black Student Union. “I don’t only focus on Black issues because at BSU we need to support all cultures and fight for the justice that they deserve.”

Like in her efforts with BLASS and BSU, Wade’s three-year position as a residence hall community advisor is built on “talking to people and helping them grow.”

“It’s challenging because you put a lot of time and effort into building community on the floor - but it’s rewarding to watch my residents grow and change.”

April 26, 2021