A double major in chemistry and music, Bryn Werley ’23 has crisscrossed the Gettysburg College quad many times, going from classes and labs in the Science Center to rehearsals in Schmucker Hall and performances at the Majestic Theater. With the help of supportive and engaged faculty, she has artfully balanced the demanding workload and emerged as a leader both in and out of the classroom.
“I was introduced to that rigor early in high school,” said the senior from Reading, Pennsylvania. “But, an even bigger part of it has been finding a network of people here who know what I can do in chemistry and who know what I can do in music, and who are willing to support both sides of what I do.”
That network of support has included chemistry faculty such as Chair Tim Funk and Prof. Kate Buettner and faculty from the Sunderman Conservatory of Music such as Prof. Steven Marx and Prof. Sarah McIver. Those individuals are just a few of the many people Werley has encountered at Gettysburg who have opened the doors for her to make new discoveries in science and music. Those discoveries have led to a bevy of awards and honors, including the College’s Organic Chemistry Award and a first-place showing in the Sunderman Conservatory of Music Concerto Competition.
Last spring came additional attention from beyond campus when she was awarded a distinguished Goldwater Scholarship for her research on iron catalysis with Funk. The Goldwater Scholarship honors outstanding sophomores and juniors in the fields of the national sciences, engineering, and mathematics and encourages these students to continue their scientific pursuits beyond their undergraduate studies. Werley was one just 417 scholarship recipients selected from a pool of more than 1,200 nominations from across the United States.
“One of the main advantages of attending a small liberal arts and sciences college is that students involved in scientific research are not working as assistants to graduate students or post-doctoral fellows,” said Funk. “Instead, they are working directly with faculty members and are doing the experiments that lead to new discoveries. Bryn’s curiosity and passion for chemistry research is infectious, and she has unknowingly inspired other students in my group to be better scientists.”
With the various awards and honors came additional roles outside of the classroom—roles that have helped Werley shape and hone her leadership skills. She served as a peer learning associate (PLA) in both chemistry and music, helping classmates and other students understand the intricacies of two very different disciplines. Werley also co-chaired the Honor Commission and served as president of the music fraternity Sigma Alpha Iota. Finally, she was selected by her peers to serve as a drum major for the Bullets Marching Band, proudly leading the large ensemble of marching musicians through campus on the way to home football games.
“Bryn’s ability to adapt to change, be calm in moments of chaos, and prioritize putting others first allowed her to thrive as a drum major,” said Marx. “She has the respect and trust of her peers, and it has been a pleasure to watch her help further build the great community that the Bullets Marching Band and Gettysburg College as a whole exemplifies.”
Last fall, Werley pulled off an impressive pair of on-stage performances. She first presented her chemistry research at the 2022 Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium at Rice University, for which she earned the Outstanding Presentation in Inorganic Chemistry Award. Werley, who plays the flute, then turned in what she called the “most fulfilling musical performance of her career” during her senior recital just a few weeks later.
While her love for music has provided short respites from the demands of the chemistry lab, Werley has her sights set on a Ph.D. in chemistry, with a focus on the organic track, following graduation in May. Music may not be as prominent a part of her future, but it has undoubtedly contributed to a well-rounded experience at Gettysburg.
“Going to ensembles and just being around other people who like doing what I do is very much a release and it's so important mentally, socially, and emotionally,” said Werley, who recently travelled with the Symphony Orchestra on a performance tour in the Baltics. “The faculty understood my wants and interests professionally, and were able to create a schedule within the Conservatory that would support my learning in a more holistic sense.”
Gettysburg’s far-reaching network also paid dividends in propelling her forward along her career path. Last summer, Funk helped Werley land an impactful internship at Bristol Myers Squibb, a global biopharmaceutical company, where she worked in Chemical Process Development (CPD) probing the mechanism of a metal-catalyzed reaction.
“When Bristol Myers Squibb is getting hundreds of applications for two positions and you know someone who has worked with the person who is doing the hiring interviews, that's invaluable,” said Werley. “The internship itself was one of the best professional moves that I could have made and my mentor through that program helped me with my grad school applications, which was something that I wasn't even expecting to get out of it.”
Werley has already received acceptance letters from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Princeton, University, The Ohio State University, and Yale University. After five years in graduate school, Werley will then spend approximately two years in postdoctoral positions before becoming a full-time college chemistry professor.
For Werley, Gettysburg was a college where she wasn’t just a number in a classroom. She worked side-by-side with her professors and was able to experience everything a college had to offer from multiple academic opportunities to immersive leadership roles. Now she stands just a few short months away from graduation and the beginning of a new educational experience, one that will eventually put her in the same shoes filled by her faculty mentors at Gettysburg.
“One of the things that I've really enjoyed about being a peer learning associate here is being able to have personal interactions with other students in a mentorship role,” said Werley. “I think that's so central to a meaningful education and I'd like to use my career to provide students with opportunities similar to what I’ve had here at Gettysburg.”
By Corey Jewart
Photos by Abbey Frisco