BELLINGHAM - When Anne d'Aquino stepped into her first college chemistry class as a sophomore at Western Washington University, she didn't know she'd be changing her life and that of her twin sister.
"Neither of us thought we would even end up taking a science class," said Anne, whose sister, Andrea, took the class after she did.
But the sisters ended up falling in love with chemistry: the discovery, the problem-solving and the way it could change lives.
They will be speaking at WWU's commencement at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 14, and after getting their bachelor's degrees, they'll be heading to Northwestern University. Anne will pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry, hoping to study drug design and interactions, and Andrea will go for a Ph.D. in chemistry, with a focus on clean and renewable energy.
The sisters, 23, had come to WWU with other intentions after graduating from Squalicum High School. Andrea planned on studying math, while Anne was interested in medicine. But in chemistry, they found pieces of what they loved about both fields.
For Anne, who plans on researching a protein involved in drug resistance, chemistry was a new way to further the medical field.
Andrea had always loved the problem-solving aspect of mathematics, and now she could do it hands on. In the lab, she works on designing and synthesizing catalysts to remove impurities from crude oil.
"When I took chemistry, I realized this was a very different kind of problem-solving," Andrea said.
Both sisters felt incredibly lucky to have found their calling, and to have found a department full of students and professors who could help guide them and encourage them along the way. Both sisters applied for and won graduate research fellowships from the National Science Foundation, and Andrea is a Presidential Scholar for the College of Sciences and Technology.
"We found what we were passionate about doing and found a group of people who were really supportive," Andrea said.
The sisters are the first in their family to graduate from college, and they didn't have a lot of role models when it came to science. The fact that they've come so far is part hard work (a big part) and part good fortune. At WWU, they co-founded the local chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, and they'd like to help other students discover their paths in science as well.
"We wanted to just get into college, then we just wanted to graduate," Anne said. "When we realized we could graduate college, we wanted to do more than just graduate. We wanted to make a difference on campus."
Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or firstname.lastname@example.org.