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Graduate Student Highlight: Heidi Busse

30 June 2021
Heidi Busse

Each week, the Department of Chemistry highlights a graduate student who is doing interesting and exciting work within the department. In this installment of our highlight series, we are featuring Heidi Busse, who is a first-year student in the Freedman group.

Heidi’s research focuses on looking at ice nucleation of atmospherically relevant organic and biological particles.

This week, we met virtually with Heidi to discuss her life in and outside of the lab! Please enjoy our interview with Heidi Busse.

Question: How did you get interested in chemistry?

Answer: My real love and passion for chemistry didn’t grow until I began doing research in an atmospheric chemistry group at UC San Diego, my alma mater. Before that point, I had never fully considered how much chemistry occurs in the air around us and the significant impacts it can have on human health and the health of our planet.


Q: What inspires you as a scientist?

A: The biggest inspiration I have as a scientist is that I have the potential to broaden the horizons of human knowledge. To think that I can learn something through my work that no one may have ever known before me is such a powerful motivator. 


Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of? 

A: I am most proud that I was not only able to complete my bachelor’s degree but that I was able to excel in my field of study. I had a lot of unique and unusual hurdles to jump through during my time in college but I didn’t let those challenges hold me back.


Q: Why did you decide to come to Penn State?

A: When looking for grad schools, I was looking outside of my home state of California, as I wanted to experience all the seasons. Ultimately, I chose to come to Penn State because of the kind and supportive environment within the Department of Chemistry.


Q: Where did you grow up? 

A: I grew up in Camarillo, CA, a small (by California standards) agricultural town just up the coast from LA. The area around Camarillo is best known for its strawberry production and grows nearly a third of all the strawberries grown in the US as well as a large portion of the country’s lemons and avocados. We also are the former home of the Camarillo State Mental Hospital that has since been converted to a university and, as many Camarillians will tell you, is the inspiration for the Eagles’ song “Hotel California.”


Q: Do you have any hobbies?

A: I’m a big crocheter and always have a few projects in progress. Some things I have made include sweaters, tote bags, home décor, stuffed animals, and toys for my cat.


Q: Do you have any pets?

A: I have a twelve-year-old cat, Smokey. He is a Norwegian Forest Cat mix and has the softest fur that makes him double in size in the winter. I’ve had him since I was a child and he made the drive across the country with me when I moved to Pennsylvania, which means he’s been to twelve states in his lifetime so far. We are hoping to add a few more states to that list this summer.

Thanks to Heidi for these interesting and thoughtful answers! We hope you enjoyed this interview. Stay tuned for more graduate student highlights in the weeks to come!