This interview is part of a series conducted by the department called, "UK Chemistry Alumni: Where Are They Now." This interview was coordinated by Dr. Arthur Cammers.
Arthur Cammers: Steven, remind me again when you graduated ... I remember that I was DUS at the time.
Steven Chapman: I graduated from UK in 2016 with a chemistry major. During undergrad I worked in Susan Odom’s lab for about 3 years studying two-electron donating electrolytes for redox flow batteries.
Arthur Cammers: What have you been doing since? I guess I should call you Dr. Chapman now, or you should call me Art.
Steven Chapman: I went to grad school! I followed in your footsteps Art and went to the University of Wisconsin–Madison for my PhD. I worked with Tehshik Yoon and studied enantioselective excited-state reactions. I just recently graduated at the end of 2021. Outside of the lab, I tried to develop a few new hobbies; I learned how to sail on Lake Mendota and ran my first half marathon during grad school.
Arthur Cammers: Was the doctoral path what you expected? Any surprises? Did you come away with any deep existential realizations as might be expected of a monk that travel to a distant land and meditated on one thing for half a decade?
Steven Chapman: There were many surprises during grad school, and most of them taught me lessons about grad school and research. From undergrad, I had a sense of what research was, but I was surprised to learn how much more rigor it involved at the graduate level. These lessons ranged from how to drive a project forward, learning what questions to ask and how to ask them, and how much self-reflection it takes to grow as a scientist. More specific to the science, I’ve surprised myself with how much I enjoy stereochemistry. It’s incredible how the subtle chemical variations between stereoisomers have a drastic effect on their reactivity and properties.
Arthur Cammers: What's next?
Steven Chapman: In early 2022 I moved to Northwestern University for a postdoc position with Julia Kalow studying covalent adaptable networks. I developed an interest in polymers and networks during grad school, so it’s been great starting a postdoc in a lab with such expertise in the area. After my postdoc, I hope to be a professor where I can lead my own research group. During undergrad, Susan showed me how rewarding and fulfilling the combination of research, teaching, and mentoring can be. During grad school, Tehshik encouraged these career aspirations and challenged me to grow as a scientist in all aspects. During my postdoc, Julia is providing opportunities for collaboration and mentorship that will be beneficial long into the future. I’m so thankful for these scientists and mentors for all their help during my chemistry journey so far.