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Scholarship funds lighten the load for father of three studying the chemistry of explosives

Derrick Ampadu-Boateng was first drawn to chemistry because it appealed to his inquisitive nature. Now, in the final year of a doctoral program in the Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Chemistry, he uses that curiosity to conduct research that could help save lives on a global scale. 

A native of Ghana in West Africa, Ampadu-Boateng came to VCU via a master’s degree in Tennessee with an open mind about his research interests, but the work of assistant professor Katharine Tibbetts, Ph.D., caught his attention right away. He joined Tibbetts’ lab as a research assistant, where he is studying the dynamics of explosive compounds with the goal of improving safety against terrorism.

Ampadu-Boateng receives a graduate research assistant stipend from the Department of Chemistry as compensation for his work, but the father of three says the cost of his education stills puts a strain on his family. Receiving the Albert T. Sneden III Scholarship in Chemistry in 2018, he explains, was instrumental in reducing that burden.

“It was a huge relief,” he says, adding that the award let him buy books and a laptop. “It means a lot because it also makes me feel as if someone is recognizing what I’m doing. It encourages me to put in more effort.”

Ampadu-Boateng’s experiences at VCU and in Tibbetts’ lab, he says, have set him up to realize his dream of being an accomplished chemist. And once he gets there, he intends to pay it forward.

“My ultimate goal,” he says, “is to complete my Ph.D., get a good job and then hopefully start my own scholarship at VCU to help people who are in need.”

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