The Oberlin Stories Project

On opportunity

Lauren Choban ’16

“At Oberlin, there is something—a club, a research lab, a play—for everyone to take part in, succeed in, and, best of all, enjoy.”

Lauren with Prof. Belitsky and another student

Walking out from Burton Hall, the crisp winds of an Oberlin fall brushed against my face as I headed through North Quad into the Science Center. After double checking many times on the Oberlin chemistry website, I knew my final destination was Associate Professor of Chemistry Jason Belitsky’s office in N371 but the number of thoughts running through my head from the time I stepped from my dorm room to his office was crazy. What should I talk about? Which questions should I ask to look smart? Should I have read up on his research more? How many students also applied?

I was headed to a winter term research interview. As a member of the swim team, I knew that I had to stay on campus for winter term. When Professor Belitsky posted about a research opportunity in his lab, I had to apply. I vaguely knew that his research was about melanin and its chemical properties, but I only was halfway through Chemistry 101.

I thought to myself, “In a place such at Oberlin, there had to be way smarter students that are more qualified than me to have a position in the lab.”

It was a long shot.

But as I opened the door to his office, as an extremely nervous first semester first-year student, I could feel that I took the right chance and everything just began to click. Professor Belitsky began to explain his research, about the biochemical properties of melanin and analogues of melanin such as catechol. I followed along with some of his explanation, but frankly, a lot just went right over my head. I just nodded and asked many, many questions. At the end of the interview, I got up, shook his hand and left his office eagerly awaiting his response.

In a week’s time, an email from Professor Belitsky forever changed my experience at Oberlin. I was now a member of the Belitsky Lab. I have worked in the lab every semester and winter term since freshman year. The knowledge I have gained, and, arguably more important, the people I have developed amicable relationships with, have changed me for the better.

I don’t know of another college that opens its doors for students in such ways as Oberlin. If you are willing, and actually put yourself out there and take chances, amazing opportunities will arise. At Oberlin, there is something—a club, a research lab, a play—for everyone to take part in, succeed in, and, best of all, enjoy.