Student Outcomes Profile: Alicia Franzen ’14

In Winter 2016/Spring 2017, a series of feature stories were written for a printed piece for Bryn Mawr College’s admissions office, highlighting student career development and outcomes. Full-length feature stories were also published on BMC’s website.

View the BMC Lilac Career Development brochure (PDF)

By the end of October her senior year, chemistry major Alicia Franzen ’14 knew that after graduation she’d begin work as an organic chemist with the chemical company DuPont.

She connected with the opportunity by attending a session hosted by the chemistry department in which Bryn Mawr alumni working at DuPont came back to campus to talk with students and highlight career opportunities with the company.

“At DuPont, I got to work in research and development, directly with an organic chemist who had a Ph.D,” she said. “I learned so much from my boss and by working with a larger team. That was something I really wanted – to keep learning in this field.”

Now an associate scientist at the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in King of Prussia, Pa., Franzen is in the lab every day. Part of a 15-person team known as the “functional discovery unit,” Franzen gets to see the whole process of drug development – from discovery to refinement. Right now, she’s working to modify and optimize a drug that would be used for respiratory distress and repair.

Time spent in the chemistry lab was a hallmark of Franzen’s Bryn Mawr experience. The fall of her sophomore year, she attended a session hosted by the chemistry department in which students were invited to hear from professors and learn about their research. Franzen connected with Assistant Professor Jason Schmink, a new organic chemistry professor on campus and someone who would eventually become an “instant mentor” to her.

Franzen began research with Schmink during her junior year and continued her work in his lab throughout the next summer and her senior year. She and three other chemistry students would work full days in the lab on Saturdays during the academic year and nearly full-time during the summer. Franzen’s summer research was funded by the Martha and Charles Casey Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

“Undergraduate chemistry students are given many of the opportunities typically reserved for graduate students elsewhere,” Franzen said. “I was able to serve as a teaching assistant and as a mentor to other chemistry students, and I had an article published in an academic chemistry journal.”

During small group sessions, Schmink would help his student researchers hone their presentation skills. This training came to good use when Franzen traveled to Dallas to present her research poster at the 247th American Chemical Society National Meeting. Her attendance and travel to the conference was funded through Bryn Mawr.

It was these experiences, coupled with many hours in the lab, that eventually set Franzen apart when entering the professional world.

“Shortly after I started at GSK, I was told I was hired because of all my experience in the lab,” Franzen said. “Professor Schmink would show us something once and then work alongside of us. Chemistry is hands-on – you aren’t going to learn unless you get to do it.”