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Graduate Student Highlight: Abigail Fagan

14 June 2021
Abby Fagan

Each week, the Department of Chemistry highlights a group of graduate students who are doing interesting and exciting work within the department. In this installment of our highlight series, we are featuring Abigail (Abby) Fagan, who is a fifth-year student in the Schaak lab.

Abby studies inorganic nanoparticle synthesis, with a particular focus on investigating post-synthetic techniques that can be used to create and manipulate complex, multi-component nanomaterials.
Outside of the lab, Abby is an active member of the Penn State chapter of the Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) organization; she also served as the GWIS secretary for the 2020-2021 academic year.

This week, we met virtually with Abby to discuss her life in and outside of the lab! Please enjoy our interview with Abigail Fagan.
Question: How did you get interested in chemistry? 

Answer: My high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Kiefer, was a really enthusiastic teacher and had a hybrid structured class where groups of students taught each other some of the chemistry concepts. It was really cool to engage in the content in that way, and he showed us so many cool lab demonstrations that it was hard not to be incredibly excited about the class!
Q: What inspires you as a scientist?

A: I am most inspired by science communication and learning about what others are researching. I love to ask a lot of questions and learn about new areas of science as well as teaching others about what I do!
Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of?

A: I am most proud of the work I have contributed to GWIS and the experiences I have gained through this organization. It’s an incredible group of women that are passionate about equity and inclusivity in STEM, and they have created so many initiatives and events during a really tough year. I have really enjoyed connecting with the members of the executive board and feel very lucky to be part of such an empowering organization.
Q: Where did you grow up? 

A: I grew up in Needham, Massachusetts, which is just a few miles outside of Boston. It’s a relatively quiet suburb, but our high school rivalry with the neighboring town of Wellesley is the oldest high school football rivalry in the country!
Q: Do you have any hobbies?

A: I love getting outdoors and going for day hikes whenever possible (especially if there’s a lake for swimming afterwards), as well as knitting and crocheting in my spare time.
Q: What’s your dream vacation? 

A: I’ve never been out of the country before, so it’s hard to narrow it down, but if I had to choose one trip, I would love to go to Ireland and Scotland!
Q: If you could have dinner with anybody (living or dead), who would it be and why?

A: I would definitely have dinner with Dr. Sally Ride. I’ve been learning about her life and career as an astronaut and mentor for women in STEM recently, and, although she passed away several years ago, she has become a role model of mine. I would love to be able to ask her about her experiences as a woman at NASA and as the first American woman in space and how she navigated everyday challenges that came with those roles. And try the food that they eat in space!

Thanks to Abby for these interesting and thoughtful answers! We hope you enjoyed this interview. Stay tuned for more graduate student highlights in the weeks to come!