Science beckoned at an early age for sophomore Sarah Rappleye (Rapple-ee), who majors in chemistry, minors in biocultural anthropology and forensic science, and is poised to present her research at a regional conference -- all while participating year-round in NCAA athletics.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Rochester and raised in Spencerport. I went to Spencerport schools my whole life. 

What drew you to SUNY Oswego?

Mostly it was Shineman, the science building. It’s very new, very beautiful and it has so much state-of-the-art equipment. It was so important to me to feel at home in the science building, because I knew I’d be spending a lot of time there. I also love the lake -- that was a big pull factor.

And your mother is a SUNY Oswego alumna.

She graduated from Oswego in 1993. She was an elementary education and American studies major. I wasn’t considering Oswego at first. But then I thought, "My mom went here; I really should check this out," and I ended up really, really liking it. So I applied and I got in!

We hear a lot about the need for more women in the sciences and math. Why chemistry?

Pretty much my whole life, I’ve had a strong passion for science. When I was very young, I was obsessed with dinosaurs and volcanoes. Then it became more of a biology interest. Then in high school my AP chemistry teacher really inspired me to pursue chemistry. She was an excellent teacher and she explained things so well. It made me very interested in the subject matter and I really enjoyed it. I think chemistry is really interesting, because it brings together a lot of different aspects of science. Most science majors have to take some amount of chemistry, because it brings together all the other disciplines. Knowing chemistry can help you understand the whole world a bit better. 

Where do your minor areas of study come in?

Another thing I’m interested in is the way forensic science can be used to solve crimes. Biocultural anthropology is just a way to branch out a little more into social science. Anthropology can be applied to other aspects of science, like evolution, and it bridges forensic science and forensic anthropology.

What do you think of the professors you've had at Oswego so far?

I’ve had a lot of excellent professors here. They’re very easy to talk to, very easy to get to know. They’re friendly -- they don’t try to impose their authority on you. They’re more on your level, it seems. That’s very nice and it makes them approachable. Talking to professors (outside of class) helps me to understand the content I’m learning a lot more, too, and makes me more passionate about the content. 

What research are you involved in?

I began the project last summer (as part of Oswego's Summer Scholars program). Essentially, it’s learning about the sugar composition of sweet potatoes based on how you cook them, and determining the amounts of sugars using an instrument called the LC-ECD -- liquid chromatography electrochemical detector. It’s a somewhat nutritional study, somewhat purely interest driven. I work with Dr. Casey Raymond. He’s had several other students working with him in the past on this project. We are thinking about trying other foods, like carrots or beets. I’m presenting my research at the Saratoga Springs meeting of the American Chemical Society in June.

Do you have plans for more research coming up?

I’m planning on doing research here again in the summer. Then next year, I hope to apply for a research internship at another university or at a company.

What do you think of your fellow students at Oswego?

I’m really close to all my friends on the cross-country team. I think joining a sport or a club is a really nice way to make a lot of friends quickly. Students in my classes are all very nice, as well. STEM students are very driven, and I like to be around that type of people. They keep me motivated.

I heard you describe yourself as a nerd.

I do consider myself a nerd, and I think it’s a good thing. I’m just really interested in learning about a lot of things, especially science, and I’m not ashamed of that. I think people should reclaim the word nerd.

Yet you're an athlete on NCAA teams at SUNY Oswego.

I’m on our Division III track and cross-country teams. In indoor track, I mainly do the 3K and the 5K and the 1500-meter (races). In cross-country, I’m usually near the top -- I scored at most of the meets. In track, I’m more middle-of-the-pack, but I get to run with all different types of people. In practice, we run 10 miles on a longer day; the average would be about 6 or 7 miles, depending on the type of workout we're doing. In a run a couple of weeks ago, we came back with snow stuck to our faces.

I sense a note of pride in your voice.

We’re really tough -- we go out in pretty much any weather. I’m very proud of myself and my teammates, because we go to practice every single day for several hours and we train very hard. We're going all year. I think a lot of people overlook how much effort we have to put in to get results in running. I’ve been running almost eight years -- it’s a really big part of my life.

How do you manage your time with athletics and a demanding major?

I keep all my assignments that I have to do organized in a planner. That helps out a lot. I think being on the cross-country team and the track team helps me structure my time better. I go to my classes, have a little bit of down time, I go to practice, eat dinner and then I do all my work. It keeps me in a routine. There's not so much waiting time, because if I had a lot of waiting time, I would just get distracted.

What do you like to do when you do have down time?

I really like learning -- I watch a lot of science videos and documentaries to enrich myself in areas like biology-related stuff that I wouldn’t learn in my regular classes, or just about interesting phenomena in the Earth. Another thing I really like is puzzles. They keep your brain active. I really like baking, so when I go home I’ll bake a lot with my mom. I have a really good chocolate cake recipe. That’s one of my favorites. One of the things I want do after I graduate is run a marathon, or marathons. I just haven't found the time yet.

What else can you tell us about your family?

My mom has been teaching at Gates-Chili (Central School District) for her whole career. She teaches sixth grade. My dad works for Ortho Clinical Diagnostics in customer service. He went to SUNY Brockport. I have a 16-year-old brother, who also runs at Spencerport High School. He’s thinking of chemical engineering. He’s just beginning his college search.

Can you tell us something about you that only family and friends know?

One interesting thing about me that I don’t talk about a lot is that I have earned my black belt in Isshin-ryū karate.