Camryn Carter

Finding chemistry on the way to MIT

July 28, 2023


This summer, recent alum Camryn Carter will travel to California to deliver a speech to cutting-edge international researchers attending the prestigious Beckman Symposium. After that, she’ll move to Boston and start work on her doctorate in chemistry at MIT. Could she have imagined this path a few years ago?

“No, not at all,” Carter said. For starters, she said, “I would never have pictured myself in chemistry.”

A native of nearby Chesterfield, Carter began her college experience as one of 20 students selected as a University of Richmond Integrated Science Experience (URISE) scholar, a research-focused program for exemplary students from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields.

She started out as a computer science major. Carter enjoyed her classes, but after taking a required chemistry course, she found something she loved even more.

Her newfound passion for chemistry led her to conduct full-time summer research all four years at UR, all fully funded.

“A lot of my friends from high school who went to different universities are surprised that we’re able to conduct research here as undergraduates,” she said.

Working with her mentor, chemistry professor Carol Parish, she was part of a research team that performed computational mutations to study the COVID omicron variant and how it gains entry into human cells. She was the lead author for the resulting study, which landed in the Journal of Molecular Graphics and Modelling.

She was named a Beckman Scholar for her commitment to research, strong academics and potential to become a scientific leader. Later she received a Rising Black Scientist award, which recognizes talented and motivated young scientists and provides funds to support professional development.

Carter graduated in May, with a double major in chemistry and computer science.

When the fall semester begins at MIT, it will be the first time she’s been away from home for her studies. She’s excited about being in Boston, with new museums, a symphony, and an opera to explore. Then of course, there will be the research — the highlight of her time at UR.

“It was something that I looked forward to every year,” she said. “It doesn’t really feel like a job, because I love it.”