Wells College Austria

lauren o'neil profileWells faculty members are champions in—and out—of the classroom.

Lauren O'Neil

It’s no secret that natural science majors and pre-med students from colleges and universities across the country constantly bemoan Organic Chemistry’s menacing reputation. Fortunately, Wells students can approach the subject with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Lauren O’Neil, a professor whose dedication, flexibility, and sense of humor earned her the Wells College Award for Excellence in Teaching in the spring of 2013.

“If you teach people the fundamentals, ” says O’Neil of her educational philosophy, “then you’ve given them the opportunity to apply them to whatever situation they come upon.” And whether she is helping students find summer research programs or designing a lab experiment to fit the interests of a given class, O’Neil works tirelessly to present those opportunities.elsie torres profile Each year, she tasks members of her Organic Chemistry class with completing an in-depth laboratory project that serves as an introduction to more independent research. After instructing her first class at Wells to synthesize aspirin, she has now tailored the project to reflect the students’ growing interest in environmental issues by challenging students to create ethanol from waste materials, such as newspaper.

After earning her undergraduate degree from St. John Fisher College and her doctorate from the University of Notre Dame, the organic chemist began teaching at Wells in the fall of 2011. The move was somewhat of a homecoming for O’Neil, who grew up in Weedsport, N.Y.—located about 25 miles north of Aurora. But at the same time, O’Neil has noticed how greatly Wells differs from other institutions she has studied at and worked for. “Because we’re so small, we can be so unique, ” she says, “and we can have big discussions about educational policy that we can’t have at other schools.”

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