Chris Woodley: Carlow Alumnus’ Research Getting Noticed

Chris Woodley is a PhD candidate in chemistry at the University of Michigan, and his work may take him to Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, Oakridge National Laboratory, and other globally known research centers. He got his start in research closer to home – as a 2019 graduate of Carlow University.

“Carlow provided me with a solid foundation to understand the fundamentals of science,” said Woodley, who double majored in biology and chemistry. “I had a lot of great influences at Carlow. In chemistry, there was Dr. [David] Gallaher and Dr. [Monique] Hochman, and in biology there was Dr. [Felicia] Cianciarulo and Laura Schatzkamer.”

Woodley recently had his first publication towards his PhD thesis published in the journal of the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Applied Materials & Interfaces, titled “Triiodide Anion as a Magnesium-ion Transporter for Low Overpotential Battery Cycling in Iodine Containing Mg(TFSI)2 Electrolyte.”

While the title may only be accessible to other chemistry PhD’s, Woodley said that it boils down to a simple concept. “If you can make magnesium work in a battery, it can store almost twice as much energy,” he said. “And magnesium is significantly more abundant than lithium, as well.”

He said he got his start in microbiology research while working with Dr. Cianciarulo determining the types of bacteria that grew on industrial air movers. While he was an undergraduate, he worked with the lab coordinator at that time to set up lab equipment and prep classrooms. It was all good preparation for entering the workforce because, in between the University of Michigan and Carlow, he worked in the research lab at PPG Industries for two years on NMP-free lithium-ion battery binders, and where – timing being everything – he started at PPG shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic began and helped set up PPG’s Covid safety protocols. It’s only one of the parts of his Carlow experience that has benefited him.

“One of the things I’ve noticed at larger institutions is when other undergrad students from these institutions need recommendations, they may have trouble being remembered by their former professors. Unlike at Carlow, where my former professors still interact with me and write recommendations. I have made enduring connections with Carlow professors who actually know me. That’s a hands-on personal touch that you don’t get everywhere.”

It wasn’t just science faculty that Woodley connected with either. He was active in student organizations. He was president of Tri-Beta, the biological honor society club, was historian for Carlow’s chapter of ACS, chair of the Student Athlete Association, and a national representative for the athletic conference.

“I think those activities gave me a lot of connections outside of science, which taught me a lot about the importance of networking,” he said. “I was able to get to know people all across the university and throughout the professional workplace.”

Woodley was also a student-athlete at Carlow as a member of both the cross-country team and an inaugural member of the first men’s track and field team. He said he still occasionally runs a 5K race here and there, but most of his activities these days are hiking, kayaking, and traveling to all 48 contiguous states with his wife.

“I had a really good experience at Carlow,” he said. “It provided me with a good base to build upon.”

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