One in 2000: Scott Snyder

Name: Scott Snyder

Hometown: Amherst NY, outside of Buffalo

High School: Amherst Central High School

Major: Chemistry

What are your plans for after college?

Next year I’m going to be pursuing a Ph.D. in organic chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, a suburb of San Diego. That’ll be a five-year program, so one more year of class and four years of research. After that I don’t quite know what I want to do. I see myself in one of two places. Either as a professor, potentially at a place like here. I wouldn’t want to do a large university; I’d definitely want a small college. The other option is perhaps working for a pharmaceutical company, doing drug design and things like that. I worked for DuPont Pharmaceuticals last summer and that’s where that interest came from. I like the pharmaceutical side just because you get the sense of actually helping people directly, and creating a therapy. I worked on Attention Deficit Disorder drugs this summer and I felt that my research had a real purpose.

What was one of your most rewarding experiences at Williams?

This sounds like a lame answer, but I’d have to say the people at Williams. I never expected to have such an impressive body of people. The things I’ll remember most about here are not so much the things I’ve done in class but a lot of times I just do random stuff with my friends. I remember one night during exams when we just drove into North Adams around two A.M. and wound up in some random pizza joint. And it’s things like that that I think I’ll remember the most – the people I’ve had the opportunity to interact with and grow as friends through different phases of my life here.

You just found out today that you were valedictorian. Were you expecting to be valedictorian?

I kind of had a sense that it might be a possibility. I didn’t want to think about it too much. I have to be honest I have thought about what would I say if I had to go up there. My greater anxiety is just that I know the whole thing is going to be video taped and I’m afraid of being fast-forwarded thirty years from now when people watch the video. It’s anxious. I’ve given public talks before, but never in front of 5,000 people or however many people are going to be there. That’ll be a daunting experience.

What was your favorite class at Williams?

My favorite class overall would have to be something related to organic chemistry, and anything in chemistry I’m happy with. I’m most happy that I took Art History. I think that was one of the best decisions I ever made. I took both intro courses and I took “American Art and Architecture” this past semester. I think that just made me grow in a lot of ways and it was something I wasn’t comfortable with or familiar with before, but I think those are probably the most rewarding classes I’ll take away from here.

Describe your most recent run-in with Security.

Actually, I’ve had a couple run-ins with Security. My Junior year I had a bat in my room in Greylock; I don’t know how it got in, but this huge bat had come in. And this past year, I won a TV over the summer and it got stolen when I was moving in the first weekend, so that was my most recent run-in with Security.

What do you think you’re going to miss about Williams?

I think the quiet nature of things. I went to Paris last week and it was just so busy and full of people. It was a nice trip, but I’ve been happy to just sit back these two days and just realize, even with 2000 students here, the quiet and the peacefulness that is Williams, and that’s why I’m glad I ultimately chose to come here.

What are some of your other interests outside of chemistry?

Mostly music. I’ve been co-director of the marching band for the past few years with another chemistry major. I did Student Symphony and a lot of those groups my first two years here, I wish in a lot of ways that I had done them more in the last two years, but other commitments prevented me from doing that. Music was probably the majority of what I’ve done. I didn’t do sports, which is probably for Williams’ benefit, in terms of winning.

You play the trumpet?


Did you always know you were interested in chemistry?

I knew through high school, and after my senior year I got to go to a chemistry camp for two weeks. There was a competition and twenty students got all expenses paid to go to the Air Force Academy for two weeks and do chemistry all day long. It was really intense, and it really turned me on to a lot. I think the reason I like chemistry is I like the experimental part. I like being in lab; I’m kind of a pyro. That’s probably part of it – mixing chemicals, colors, things like that. The other part for organic chemistry in particular is that I get the opportunity to make things that may not exist. It’s a neat concept that I can make something that’s no where else in the world and it’s sitting on my shelf and might have a useful purpose.

Are there any particular professors who have influenced you?

The most influential professor for me would probably be my thesis advisor Hodge Markgraf. He retired last year and I was very fortunate to be able to do a thesis with him this year. I think his years of experience and other factors have influenced me greatly, but I would say that almost every professor I’ve had at Williams has impassioned me. I think the thing that we get most out of Williams and that we take for granted a lot of the time is just the interaction with professors. Whether it’s personally or also on a professional, teaching relationship, that’s something that’s missing in a lot of other places. My father teaches at a large university and I know that he doesn’t have that kind of relationship with his students.

Anything else?

Well, one thing. My friends and I always wondered how do you get picked to be 1 in 2000? And I think a comment I once made was I knew they interviewed the valedictorian, so I figured this was the only way I’d ever get to be interviewed. I don’t know if I worked extra hard because of that.

One final question that’s been bugging us – Oreo or Hydrox?

Definitely Oreo. It’s thicker stuff than Hydrox and Hydrox seems to crumble more in milk.

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