Student Scholarship Story

Small Campus, Big Connections: Student Athlete Discovers Exciting Career in STEM

Following Your Passion

Robby Running grew up in Hood River and thought for sure he was going to college to become a dentist. All of that changed for him when he took an organic spectroscopy class at SOU, and his world opened up. That’s the magic of what happens in the classroom at SOU. The path to discovery looks different for each student, but the opportunities are everywhere you look. Robby had the innate curiosity—and eager mind that many SOU students have—to venture into the exploratory nature of the sciences. Following that curiosity led him to an exciting path of career advancement. 

Man holding soccer ball in red jersey.
On the STEM Career Pathway

Robby will start as a nuclear magnetic resonance chemist at Eli Lilly and Company this fall. Because of SOU’s state-of-the art instrumentation and research laboratories, Robby was able to learn the skills necessary to earn a position in this well-regarded company, a role that is difficult to secure without a doctorate degree. Because of SOU’s smaller size as an institution, he was able to develop close—and connected—relationships with faculty that led to his future career in making medicine. 

In addition, during the pandemic, the Chemistry Department allowed for in-person lectures and labs while maintaining COVID precautions. This kept students safe so they could still learn together on campus. Robby says, “I wouldn’t have had the same experience if the Chemistry department was 100% remote. I don’t know of any other university that did the same for their students during the pandemic.” 

Of Chemistry faculty, Dr. Hala Schepmann, Robby says, “She’s the best teacher I’ve ever had. She gave me the resources I needed, advised me, and helped me to stay motivated.” Even though Robby received the worst grades ever on his first organic spectroscopy exam, it fueled him to work harder. Robby was later recognized for Outstanding Achievement in Organic Chemistry in 2021 and Outstanding Achievement in Calculus-based Physics in 2022, showing how far determination can take a student.

Three soccer players in red jerseys and black shorts run on a field.
Mentorship Creates a New Direction

Robby came to SOU to play for the Men’s soccer team, but two injuries over the course of his athletic career at SOU challenged him to focus even more on his academics. He hit some rough patches the first time he tore his ACL but professors, the SOU Health Center, the Chemistry club, and friends supported him through the healing.  

During COVID, Running took an online Advanced NMR techniques class with SOU alumnus, Jonas Buser, who is a chemist at Eli Lilly. Buser noticed how interested Robby was in the field, and directed him to the work and encouraged him to pursue a career in it. It was this informal mentorship—coupled with faculty, classes, and research facilities—that has prepared Robby for an exciting future. Robby says, “I dedicate a lot of my current success to SOU directing me on this path.”   

Even through two injuries in soccer, Robby has loved playing for the Men’s team at SOU. It gave him a sense of belonging he needed as a new student in college. Robby reflects on the things that he’s accomplished at SOU and says he’s proud of his consistency and hard work, which led to an academic scholarship. As a recipient of the Coyner Bayley Graf Chemistry Scholarship, Robby says, “The recognition of the scholarship showed me how much my hard work mattered in academics. It gave me a new pathway.”  


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