Outstanding Seniors in the College of Science: Sophia von Hippel

Nov. 28, 2022
Sophia Von Hippel Graphic

This fall, departments in the University of Arizona's College of Science nominated an outstanding senior who went above and beyond during their time as a Wildcat. We are pleased to share their stories as they reflect on their time at UArizona. First up in the senior spotlight series is Sophia von Hippel.

Sophia von Hippel
Chemistry & Biochemistry

College of Science: Why did you choose your area of study?
von Hippel: When I enrolled as a freshman at the University of Arizona, I aspired to become a physician. My interest in medicine was both academically and morally motivated; I found physiology fascinating, and I desired to help people. In my sophomore year, I took honors organic chemistry with Dr. Dollinger. Friends warned me that the course would be tremendously difficult and that I would probably hate it. I discovered that I love the problem-solving involved in synthesis and the spatial reasoning required for stereochemistry. I surprised myself by falling in love with chemistry and I promptly changed my major.

COS: Tell us about a class or research project you really enjoyed.
von Hippel: My favorite class was CHEM 447, an elective focused on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). In earlier courses I was exposed to proton and carbon one dimensional NMR. In CHEM 447, I learned to analyze COSY, DOSY, HSQC, and HMBC. In CHEM 447, Vlad challenged me individually by assigning a more difficult project than the general class assignment. I loved how my individualized assignment, which involved identifying the NMR signals that corresponded to a polypeptide composed of eight amino acids, forced me to think about chemistry in new ways.

COS: What is one specific memory from your time at UA that you'll cherish forever?
von Hippel: This semester I was encouraged to apply for the Outstanding Senior Award by one of the CBC advisors, Olivia Mendoza. Her support, along with the support of my research mentors, my professors, and the rest of the CBC advising team, has been exceptional. The experience of being recognized by the CBC department has been rewarding, and I expect it will become a meaningful memory as I move forward with my career.

COS: What is next for you after graduation?
von Hippel: Last spring, I attended a seminar by Dr. Pete Myers about sustainable chemistry at the Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Dr. Myers discussed the hazards of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) and their role in reproductive disorders, metabolic diseases, and obesity. He described how these problems can be addressed via innovative chemistry, changes to regulations governing pollution, and broad chemical policy reforms. Dr. Myers was kind enough to sit down with me after his seminar to talk about the field of sustainable chemistry and to encourage me to apply for Ph.D. programs. I realized that sustainable chemistry combines my love of chemistry with my passion for protection of the environment and public health. I am now planning to pursue a PhD in sustainable chemistry, with the goal of a multifaceted career involving research and policy work.