The Chemistry of Life

A new teacher at IMSA this year, Dr. Angela Ahrendt grew up in Olney, IL. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from the University of Urbana-Champaign and then worked at the Amoco Research Center in Naperville for six years. That experience, though, ultimately prompted her to go back to school.

“The scientists at Amoco all had Ph.D.’s, and with my Bachelor’s degree, I could only be employed as a technician,” Dr. Ahrendt recounted. As a result, she ended up at Northern Illinois University for graduate work. “I had intended to study analytical chemistry, having worked in the analytical division at Amoco doing elemental analysis. However, the second class I took was biochemistry, and I fell in love. I ended up getting my Ph.D. in biochemistry instead,” she says.

Teaching extensively around the Chicago suburbs, Dr. Ahrendt has worked at many community colleges in the area. She spent her last five years teaching organic chemistry at the National University of Health Sciences in Lombard. She also worked in the Biosciences Division at Argonne National Laboratory for nine years, teaching as an adjunct professor while conducting various experiments and projects. As a protein biochemist, Dr. Ahrendt has performed research in microbial forensics using microarrays of Bacillus anthrasis, stabilized antibodies for use in detectors, engineered antibodies for use in medical applications, and designed plasmids to express fluorescent proteins in soil bacteria for use in imaging projects.

“I came to IMSA because I really enjoy teaching, and I like the SIR program,” Dr. Ahrendt said. “It’s a good way to stay in contact with research. I hope to be an advisor next year.” Her love of chemistry came from her father, who also had a degree in the subject. “He didn’t know what to do with it, though,” admitted Dr. Ahrendt. “But his mother said, why not teach? So that’s what he did.”

Because she came from a rural, farming community downstate, Dr. Ahrendt can more or less relate with some students here at IMSA. She had always wanted to “be closer to civilization,” so she doesn’t really regret moving further up the state, but she believes that the countryside still has its charms.

Her favorite part about IMSA are the extraordinary people here. “Everyone—-faculty, staff, and the students—-is very respectful and kind. It’s a nice environment,” she praised. When asked whether she had any tips for our creative, ethical, and scientific minds, she laughed and suggested we be deliberate in our choices.

About the Author

Lauralyn Lin
Yuzhao "Lauralyn" Lin is a rising senior from Libertyville, IL. She's very excited to be serving as Editor-in-Chief with her dear friend and fellow senior, Chandana Tetali, and hopes to develop The Acronym into a thriving, impactful publication that will inspire and change the IMSA community. Find her in 06B for classical music, YA book recommendations, and proud Canadian-ness.

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