Office Hours: Arianne Hunter


Arianne Hunter

Chemistry Ph.D. Candidate at University of Oklahoma


What inspired you to attend grad school?

When I was taking organic chemistry as a pre-med requirement at Dartmouth College in undergrad, the corresponding lab portion of the course was typically 6-8 hours long because we were on the trimester system. Every other student in my lab hated this, but I loved it and was actually good at it, and synthesis reminded me of cooking in the kitchen. Once the quarter was over professors and TAs told me how great I was in the lab and that I should consider graduate school. So their positive reinforcment on top of a great lecture professor made me decide to move forward with a Ph.D.


Tell me about your proudest grad school moment. Why was it special for you?

My proudest moment was receiving a Department of Defense sponsored graduate fellowship (SMART Scholarship) that pays for my entire graduate education, alongside a monthly stipend and guaranteed job with the DoD upon graduation. This was my proudest moment because I worked so hard completing applications and putting in the work to make my resume the best it could be, so for that work to finally be recognized by a government agency literally was life changing and instilled a sense of confidence in me that not only was I on the same level as my peers but I was better than a majority of them since I received such a prestigious award.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten while in grad school?

The best advice I’ve gotten is “hard work is never wasted”. When you’re in grad school, especially for STEM where you’re putting in long hours in the classroom and lab only to fail over 80% of your experiments, it’s easy to become discouraged and give up. But what some may not realize is that when you put more hard work in, your 20% success rate is a dependent variable that can easily be changed. If someone only does 10 experiments a week, they will only succeed in 2 of them. But if you CHOOSE TO do 100 experiments compared to their 10, you will succeed in 20 of them.


If you had to describe your Black grad experience with one song, which one would it be, and why?

"Cruisin’" by Smokie Robinson. Chemistry is a getaway for me, the lab is where I’m my happiest. So every time I think about grad school and the experience I’ve had I feel like it was my “cruise into the sunset” after undergrad (which were the hardest four years of my life thus far lol).


What has been your biggest obstacle in grad school? What strategies have you used to try to overcome it?

My biggest obstacle has been work/life balance, particularly my social life. I typically work 70 hours a week in the lab so it’s really tough to maintain healthy relationships/friendships when you’re juggling such an intense schedule. To overcome this I plan out my Saturday and Sunday evening to not open a book or step foot in lab and enjoy time with family and friends.


What has this experience (pursuing a graduate degree) taught you about yourself?

This experience has taught me that there are so many people in our communities that are not tapping into their full potential. I grew up with so many other black kids that I felt like were as smart, if not smarter, than I was. And if I’m able to do what I do every day and be successful, who knows what those same kids I grew up with could be doing right now if they had the same guidance and village behind them that I did.


If you could go back to the first day of grad school, what advice would you give to yourself?

Do not get a roommate! Lol. Grad school is a bunch of work, so many hours in the lab/classroom/ your home/apartment needs to be your place of peace.


How do you think your identities have informed your graduate experience?

As a black woman in STEM I constantly have to prove myself, not only because I’m black, but more so because I’m a woman. Chemistry is a boys club. So knowing that because of the intersectionality of my two identities, every time I enter into a room my thoughts will be questioned, has caused me to always be thoroughly if not overly prepared in all situations.


How do you intend to use your degree in the future?

My end goal is to be a college president (if I choose academia) or chief scientific advisor to the president of the United States (if I choose government).


What’s something that you would tell someone who is interested in pursuing a similar path?

Dream big and work hard. Everything you want is within reach when the hours you put in grinding are your step ladder.

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