Local student presents STEM leadership project


NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Whitney Lewis of Mendota was one of five women enrolled at Saint Mary’s College who recently presented STEM-related leadership activities at the college’s STEM event. The event was held to showcase internship and global research projects completed over the summer. Lewis was among more than 50 total presenters at the event showing projects ranging from antibiotics to astrophysics.

Lewis, whose research project was titled “The Development of a Paper Analytical Device to Detect Degraded Beta-Lactam Antibiotics,” is a chemistry major with a future in the medical profession. She is concerned about the quality of beta-lactam antibiotics, especially in developing countries where storage and manufacturing practices may be compromised. Her research focused on the development of colorimetric tests for a paper-based device to rapidly and reliably assess the quality of beta-lactam antibiotic samples. Thus far, her device has been used to assess the quality of 500 suspicious samples collected from Nepal. She aims to publish her results once validated.

“The groundbreaking, thought-provoking, and engaging projects our STEM students tackled over the summer ranged from Alzheimer’s, antibiotics, a cataclysmic variable star system, solar power, body mass trends, and analysis of pharmaceutical samples from Nepal,” said Dr. Toni Barstis, PhD, Saint Mary’s College chemistry professor and director of the 4+1 Dual Degree Engineering Program of Saint Mary’s College and the University of Notre Dame. “The women at Saint Mary’s College continue to impress the STEM community with their findings. Students secured competitive internships and research positions at Harvard/Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Wright Patterson Airforce Base, University of Texas at Austin, Saint Mary’s College - Kathmandu Institute of Applied Sciences, Pocono Wildlife Rehab and Education Center, University of Michigan, and University of Notre Dame.

“Women receiving degrees in STEM fields still lags significantly behind men, with women making up only 35 percent of all STEM graduates nationwide,” Barstis added. “We, at Saint Mary’s College, are deeply committed to educating the next generation of leaders, including those in STEM.”

About Saint Mary’s College: Celebrating 175 years of empowering women to make a difference in the world, Saint Mary’s College is recognized as a pioneer in the education of women. A Catholic, liberal arts institution in Notre Dame, Ind., the college offers more than 50 academic programs and also offers co-educational master’s degrees in data science, speech language pathology, autism studies, and a Doctor of Nursing Practice.

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