When Hillary Butts '13, MSM '16 was choosing a college for her undergraduate degree, she gravitated toward the familiar - her grandmother was a graduate of the Emmanuel College Class of 1939. And when it came time to continue her education, the decision was simple - to return to Emmanuel to build upon the research skills she learned as a chemistry major.
Butts currently works as a research associate at AgaMatrix, a Salem, New Hampshire-based company that designs products for diabetes care, including a cloud-supported diabetes-management app that works with the iPhone and other smartphone-based technology.
"I actually heard about the position from an Emmanuel classmate," she said. "I was working for another company and getting a lot of good experience, but I missed the research component that I enjoyed so much at Emmanuel."
In her role at AgaMatrix, Butts collects data and results for upper-level chemists and is currently working on a project to improve diabetic testing strips and blood glucose meters.
"These products can always be more accurate, faster, easier to use and require less blood," she said.
Though her interests lie in carrying out research, she also enjoys the organizational aspects of the work. While an undergraduate, she was aware of Emmanuel's Master of Science in Management with a specialization in research administration through its Graduate and Professional Programs, but wanted to focus on her role as a chemist. But by fall 2014, she felt she was ready to broaden her career outlook and enrolled in the program.
"I work in Salem, New Hampshire, and live in Lowell, so I don't always have the time to drive into Boston," Butts said. "I love that I can still take advantage of Emmanuel's program by taking the courses online. I'm learning a lot."
Butts isn't planning a career switch anytime soon, but can see herself using her new skillset to be a manager or to write grant proposals in the future.
Butts came to Emmanuel in 2009 knowing that she was interested in the weather, but understood that the field was narrow and decided to explore biology as a whole. But after a course with now Associate Professor of Chemistry Aren Gerdon, she found his passion for the subject contagious and made the switch over to chemistry.
For two and a half years, she worked as a research assistant with Dr. Gerdon's on-campus research group, through which she was able to present with her classmates at the Northeast Undergraduate Research and Development Symposium (NURDS) in Maine and the 242nd National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Denver. Her work with Dr. Gerdon and the group was also published in the ACS peer-reviewed scientific journal Langmuir.
While at Emmanuel, Butts also led formal study groups for science majors as a science fellow in the College's Science Living-Learning Community, assisted the laboratory manager for general chemistry and organic chemistry as a lab assistant, and assisted organic chemistry and analytical chemistry professors during laboratory periods as a teaching assistant.
She also holds a graduate certificate in plastics engineering fundamentals from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.