Kelly Fletcher works with Dr. Jack Steehler of the Chemistry Department on Surface Plasmon Resonance. The long-range goal of this project is to develop a technique for measuring, on extremely small scales, acid rain erosion of limestone buildings. The Surface Plasmon Resonance technique involves using an LED light to excite a plasmon on the surface of a sample. The plasmon resonance causes the reflectivity of the surface to vary with angle. The researcher uses the angle with the smallest reflectivity and special equations to determine the thickness of the sample.
Kelly is a chemistry major from Cherry Hill, New Jersey. She started her work with Dr. Steehler in the URAP program in her first year at Roanoke College. Most of Kelly's first year work was spent solving a fluid leakage problem, a procedural adjustment that had to be made before getting to a data collection stage. Describing the challenge of working with a new technique, Kelly says, "It is a practical introduction especially to scientific research, because the experiments will not always go as planned and you have to persevere. After two years, we have finally gotten to the point where we can run the experiments we need to with relatively few problems and get good results."
Kelly's outside activities include cross country, indoor and outdoor track and "plenty of free time." She has found that URAP has been helped her academically. "Your mentor will always be willing to help if you have problems with the project or if you are having problems with a class in their subject area, even if they are not teaching it!" Socially, she has her URAP friends in addition to dormmates, teammates and classmates. "Being involved in college is all about having connections; the more connections, the more opportunities to get involved and find your niche."
Kelly has the following advice for high school students thinking about attending Roanoke College. "Apply! There is no program like this at any other college or university, and it looks excellent on a graduate school resume. You will develop a relationship with your mentor to last four years and beyond. If you are worried about the time commitment or intensity level required, don't be; the faculty are flexible and their projects are aimed towards incoming freshmen, so you will grow with your project."