Biochemistry senior finds career path, passions at Detroit Mercy

December 03, 2021

Coryn Le showcases a research project that she did during her studies at University of Detroit Mercy. The poster is on “Compositional Analysis of Commercially Available Beauty Supplements,” and it includes an abstract, introduction, methods, sample list, photos of the results and discussion, photos of the beauty supplies used and the Detroit Mercy logo.University of Detroit Mercy senior Coryn Le is passionate about her Biochemistry research. She aspires to help others through her career, whether it be in cosmetics and skincare or pharmaceuticals. One of her favorite research projects at the University examined beauty supplements.

But Le is already making a difference outside of science by mentoring young boys.

For nearly a year, Le has volunteered with Boys2Men, a group that provides boys and teens with positive role models and mentors. She works with boys ages 7-17 and connects with them through educational activities or schoolwork.

Le got involved with the organization through her studies at Detroit Mercy, as Associate Professor of Chemistry Klaus Friedrich incorporates Boys2Men as a service-learning component in his coursework. She first volunteered in March 2020 and signed up to be a co-leader shortly thereafter. The winter 2022 semester will mark Le’s second year as a co-leader.

During the pandemic, Le and her peers interacted with the boys virtually and played educational games.

“I just like seeing the different perspectives with the boys,” Le said. “Also, the boys are always so happy to see us and engage with us. It kind of brings out different perspectives and it lets everyone be outside their field from the STEM world and just to connect with people.

“We do need that outside of STEM — to connect with others and build that human touch — even if it’s virtual during the pandemic.”

Volunteering has benefited not only the boys, it has taught Le some life lessons.

“I learned about a different perspective than mine, and how through a kid’s mind — even ones in a more difficult position than me — they can still see the world in like a better light. And that just gives me more hope for the future generation.”

Le initially wanted to be a dentist and became interested in Detroit Mercy because of its School of Dentistry. Though her career path eventually changed, she liked how the University could be a place for her to connect with faculty and be involved.

Le ultimately decided on studying Biochemistry at Detroit Mercy because it would allow her to connect her studies to the human body.

“What set it apart is that there are many paths that I can take with Biochemistry,” Le said. “I can work in the laboratory or I can work in pharmaceuticals, creating the drug itself.”

Le has performed research throughout her time at Detroit Mercy, and has led groups of freshmen in Professor and Chair of Chemistry and Biochemistry Mark Benvenuto’s Chemistry I labs, where she’s helped them get their research published.

Le says she helps her peers not for her own benefit — but because she wants to see them succeed.

“I just enjoy that they learn something new and I’m helping them along to grow in their research or in their school life,” she said.

Some of the topics Le has researched while at Detroit Mercy include the Tyndall effect, low melting alloys, volume contractions of polar solvent combinations and the composition of commercially analyzed beauty supplements.

The beauty supplements project is one she is most proud of.

“Basically, beauty companies have been advertising the benefits that their supplements will do for the human body,” Le said. “We tested out and saw what was inside the supplements and how it would benefit the human body, and it showed that there was no actual benefit. It was kind of sad, since all these consumers are buying these products and they’re not working for them.

“It was my first project when I started research,” Le said. “It just interested me the most, because I’m very interested in skincare and what it does to the human body. The right skincare can either break the human body or make you more flawless with the right ingredients.”

Le, who anticipates graduating from the University next fall, works as a laboratory assistant at Ascension Hospital, where she helps process patients’ blood work and body fluids. She plans on attending graduate school to focus on pharmaceuticals or cosmetics.

“I want to work for a skincare line or skincare company. If that’s not the case, work in pharmaceuticals and making vaccines or drugs,” Le said. “It’s because I’m interested in skincare generally, and what makes it good.”

A photo of Coryn Le with a classmate, who are both wearing Detroit Mercy shirts.When Le isn’t volunteering or working in a lab, she likes being involved on Detroit Mercy’s McNichols Campus and playing musical instruments.

She serves as a peer mentor for the University’s TRIO Student Support Services program, where she can provide fellow students with advice and suggestions. She is also involved with the Chemistry Club.

“I like the people here,” Le said. “Since the campus is so small, you just know everyone here. It’s just easy to connect with them.”

For more than a decade, Le has played the flute and piano. Growing up, she participated in recitals, competitions and marching brand.

Le also enjoys making puzzles. She says the hobby was invaluably helpful during the pandemic.

“When the pandemic started, I needed something to intrigue my mind, so I went through puzzles,” she said. “I started with 2D puzzles, 1,000 pieces, then I made it up to 2,000 pieces, then I upgraded to 3D puzzles. Puzzles are expensive.”

Luckily, Le was able to borrow puzzles from the Chemistry building’s puzzle room.

“Every few weeks, I would take a puzzle home and just do it during the pandemic.”

Le’s time at Detroit Mercy is nearing its end, but she appreciates how the University has helped her grow beyond her education.

“During volunteering, the University’s Jesuit and Mercy mission has impacted me. We do use service-learning throughout our studies, and that’s just great for students, because some universities don’t do that and they just focus on your major,” Le said. “So, once you get into the career field, we’re more ahead of the game in connecting with people who are different than us, and seeing different perspectives as well. That’s what I like about this University.”

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