Heather Bailey ’12 grew up in Ashland and even had SOU alumna Carol Moody MS ’69 as her second and third grade teacher at Bellview Elementary School. Many young people avoid attending college in their hometown, seeking instead, to get away from where they grew up. But Heather knew about the strong reputation of the chemistry department at SOU then applied and earned a Presidential Academic Scholarship and just like that, she was staying home for her collegiate undergraduate experience.
Heather pursued her degree in chemistry, which warrants many hours of reading, study and laboratory experiences. But she appreciated the size of the academic courses and was able to take advantage of one on one time with professors to maintain her academic progress and to review crucial details in a tough academic program. “Dr. Hala Schepmann was one of my favorite instructors. She was demanding and tough but she always was there for me and other students and helped us to become better chemists as a result,” she said. In her third year at SOU, she mentored new chemistry students, which would help her immensely in her next academic step after graduation.
Heather applied and was accepted to graduate school at Stanford University to pursue a doctorate in physical chemistry. Just three months after commencement in Ashland, she was teaching undergrads organic chemistry with only a bachelor’s degree. “It’s a much different world at a large research university. At SOU, I was taught in most courses by people with doctorate degrees. Most teaching at Stanford is done by graduate assistants. It was a great experience for me,” she said. She started a research group the second quarter of graduate school and after the first year there, transitioned to being a research laboratory assistant for the next five years. Then came the big moment in 2018 when she earned her PhD in physical chemistry from one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
After earning her doctorate, Heather secured her first job with a large Silicon Valley company with 21,000 employees called Applied Materials in Santa Clara, California. She’s a systems engineer there, working in a research and development group to design new instrumentation to make smartphone, television and computer displays. She’s thankful for where her SOU experience has helped to bring her, “I was very happy to stay home to get my undergraduate education at SOU. I felt like I had no disadvantage in graduate school at Stanford compared to students coming in from much larger, research universities.”
Learn more: Applied Materials