Professor mentorship: Libby Puckett & Nicole Reilly

This exchange between Dr. Libby Puckett and one of her students, Nicole Reilly ’11, reveals a life-changing relationship between a student and her professor. Reilly choose Appalachian State University in part because Puckett, who is dedicated to developing strong female scientists and role models, spent valuable time with Reilly as a high school senior touring the chemistry department.



Nicole Reilly: Well I’m a chemistry major so the course work is very interdisciplinary. But I really feel like it’s definitely what I want to do. It’s definitely the career I want to go into. I really feel like I know my professors. I never feel like it’s, “This is what you have to know.” It’s always been, “This is how you learn.”

Libby Puckett: Giving them skills, that’s what we want to do. We want to give them the tools that they need to succeed in the future. I think if you make it about real life and why it’s important, they’ll want to learn more. I want them to be inspired by it. I want them to be encouraged and enthused. It’s just the love of chemistry and wanting that to be contagious.

NR: When I was a senior in high school I was interested in pursuing chemistry and specifically forensics. I knew another member of the chemistry department. He told me to contact Dr. Puckett.

LP: It’s vey important to make sure we emphasize making strong female scientists and to make strong female role models in the sciences.

NR: She gave me a tour of the chemistry lab and just really took an interest in my goals and my career aspirations and at that point I hadn’t even considered Appalachian as a school. Her taking that much of an interest without knowing me, without having anything to gain from it, was just amazing. It’s a wonderful feeling when someone looks at you and tells you, “I want to give you this time, I think you’re worth it.”

LP: I just want them to feel how I wanted to feel. I wanted them to feel at home at a place I wanted to go to school. I want nothing more than for the students to be exactly where they are going to thrive.

NR: People are always talking about that one influential person in your life and Dr. Puckett is that person for me. I wouldn’t have known that research is what I wanted to do. I wouldn’t have had as much faith in my abilities and in my intelligence. I really feel like without her, I wouldn’t be nearly as prepared for life.

LP: It’s a blessing and it’s a curse. It’s a blessing that these wonderful people have come into my life and metamorphsised into these fine young scientists. It’s also a curse because every four years I have to lose them, too. It breaks my heart to lose them, but I know I won’t ever really lose them. They’re going to be with me forever.