‘Get involved’

To anyone entering college, Luke Gallion had some advice: Get involved early.

After graduating from Brownstown Central High School in 2012, Gallion moved on to Butler University with plans of studying pre-med. But once he decided to major in chemistry, that opened up many opportunities.

He has participated in research and other projects at the Indianapolis campus and at several places around the country, allowing him to earn a prestigious scholarship and other awards. He also has shared his knowledge and love of chemistry with undergraduates and elementary and middle school students, and he has spent time volunteering.

Gallion’s involvement on campus also has allowed him to travel to Jamaica twice, and he is getting ready to go there again. Plus, he recently went on his first trip to Europe.

He has done all of this through his first three years at Butler, and he still has one more year on campus before going elsewhere to pursue a doctorate.

“It has kept me very busy,” Gallion said. “Going to college, I never would have dreamed that I would have all of these amazing experiences. But I think that came about as a result of just saying, ‘Hey, what can I get involved in?’ It has been a fortunate thing because the more involved I’ve gotten, the more I’ve gotten to learn about other opportunities that I never would have known about.”

Networking with professionals in his field and getting to know upperclassmen through joining a fraternity helped him land some of the opportunities.

“Instead of just being involved with something and being able to write it down on a résumé, I picked things that I was really passionate about and really enjoyed doing,” he said. “I think that any time you have a passion for something, you’re going to put forth more exceptional work, and I think people see that.”

Shifting focus

After high school, Gallion intended to go to Indiana State University. But after he received the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship, it enabled him to go to any Indiana college with all expenses paid, and he chose Butler.

During his first semester, Gallion asked about doing undergraduate research. He was directed to professor Michael Samide and began working in a research laboratory. That resulted in applying for and getting accepted into the Butler Summer Institute from May to July 2013.

In that time, he developed a novel method of merging thin layer chromatography and ion chromatography, gained experience with various instrumentation methods and integrated material learned in lecture to interpret data and evaluate future project direction.

Gallion is in the process of wrapping up that analytical chemistry research project and trying to get it published in a peer-review journal.

“Through the academic year, I worked three to six hours on the project. But through Butler Summer Institute, I was able to do 40 hours a week for nine weeks, so I made a lot of progress,” he said.

“During that time, I was also volunteering at St. Vincent in the emergency room, and it was at that time that I started to realize that I really enjoyed being in the lab and didn’t enjoy so much being at the hospital,” he added. “So I switched over to thinking that I would probably pursue some kind of higher degree in chemistry.”

In August 2013, he was an undergraduate research mentor with the Chemistry Research Boot Camp at Butler. He counseled students interested in performing undergraduate research and motivated them to creatively evaluate and investigate independent research topics. He is doing that again this summer.

Achieving honors

Around that time, Gallion also co-founded the Chemistry Outreach Program at Butler, which involves informing elementary and middle school students of the potential careers utilizing a chemistry degree. In the spring 2014, he helped lead a program at Brownstown Central Middle School.

Samide is involved with that, along with two other students — one working toward medical school and one going to law school with a chemistry degree.

“Throughout our presentations, we try to show these kids that you can get a science degree and do a lot of different things,” Gallion said.

At the end of his sophomore year, Gallion was named a top 10 male student at Butler. That typically goes to juniors and seniors, but with the college credits Gallion earned in high school, he had senior status.

Students are nominated by professors, and those making the top 100 receive letters of recommendation from three faculty members. A committee picks the top 10 men and top 10 women, and then chooses the top man and top woman.

Gallion said students can apply twice during their time at Butler, and he plans to apply next school year. Fellow Brownstown Central graduate Jake Brown made the top 100 this past school year, and 2011 Seymour High School graduate Braden Sciarra made the top 100 in 2013-14 and top 10 in 2014-15.

In the summer of 2014, Gallion participated in the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates at the University of Tennessee, where he did 40 hours of chemistry research per week for 10 weeks. He focused on inorganic chemistry research, acquiring skills in the synthesis and purification of chemical compounds in a hands-on setting and characterizing chemical compounds using various techniques.

Networking opportunities

In August, he became a chemistry lab assistant at Butler, and he still does that today. In that capacity, he did a research project on how to teach lab cleanliness to undergraduate students and got published for that work.

In the fall, he discussed his thin layer chromatography and ion chromatography research at an American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exposition event in Indianapolis. Then this past March, he presented his lab cleanliness research at the national meeting and exposition in Denver.

“Not only did I get to practice presenting my scientific research, which I’ll be doing for the rest of my life, but I also had the opportunity at these things to network with other professionals,” he said.

“I got to see what research is going on at various institutions, and that’s going to be really helpful when I go to apply for graduate school somewhere because I’ll want to apply someplace where they are doing good research,” he said. “It’s going to be very helpful if I’ve met faculty members from those graduate institutions.”

Since January, Gallion has been earning college credit as a conservation science intern at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. He is investigating rapidly degrading pigments on Fernando Brizio’s “Painting a Fresco with Giotto #3” to determine the cause of degradation and establish methods of preservation.

In March, he received a financial boost for his senior year by earning the prestigious Goldwater scholarship, which is worth $7,500 to go toward school-related expenses. Gallion said it’s a nationally competitive research-based scholarship for students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math.

Also in March, for the second time, Gallion spent his spring break at Moorlands Camp in Jamaica. That opportunity was made possible through his involvement with the intercollegiate YMCA at Butler.

While there, he and more than 30 other students renovated the camp to prepare it for the summer, visited an orphanage and worked in the community. Gallion became close to a boy named Kemar, and they still write letters to each other.

Traveling abroad

Gallion will go back to Jamaica from June 15 to the end of July to serve as a camp counselor.

“I’m excited this summer to get to go; and while I’m at the camp, I’ll get to see how our work on spring break really impacts the kids that get to come,” he said. “I’m also excited to get to go spend some more time at the orphanage and see some of the friends that I’ve made there.”

On May 28, Gallion returned from a 10-day trip to Germany and Switzerland with 17 students and three faculty members studying alternative energy sources. That trip was through a chemistry class.

Gallion expects to earn his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in May 2016 and then will look at other schools to earn a doctorate in analytical or inorganic chemistry and become a college professor or work in industry.

“If you get your Ph.D. in anything else, you have to pay while you’re at school,” Gallion said. “With chemistry, because you’re actually doing research, you’re considered an employee of the institution, so you actually get paid to get your Ph.D.”

As for others wanting to follow a similar path, Gallion encouraged them to go for it.

“The sky is the limit,” he said. “Just because you’re from a small town doesn’t mean that you’re not able to do something. Never settle, always dream big and get involved as early as possible. By becoming involved, hopefully a lot of opportunities present themselves to you.”

And when those opportunities come, he said, seize them.

“I’d say anything can be accomplished with hard work,” he said. “I don’t consider myself to be the smartest person at Butler University, so I spend I lot of time in the library studying or filling out scholarship applications and stuff like that. It’s a lot of hard work, you lose a lot of sleep; but in the end, if you work hard for something that you’re passionate about, it’s really going to pay off.”

Gallion file

Name: Luke Gallion

Age: 21

Hometown: Brownstown

Residence: Indianapolis

Education: Brownstown Central High School (2012); Butler University (finished up his junior year; plans to earn his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in May 2016); he will then go to another institution to work toward a doctorate in analytical or inorganic chemistry

Chemistry experience: Butler Summer Institute (researcher, May to July 2013); National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (researcher, May to July 2014); Indianapolis Museum of Art (conservation science intern, January 2015 to present)

Related experience: Butler University Commission on the Sciences (student delegate, August 2013 to present); chemistry lab assistant (August 2014 to present); Chemistry Research Boot Camp (undergraduate research mentor, August 2013 and August 2015)

Volunteer experience: Butler Chemistry Outreach Program (co-founder/participant, August 2013 to present); Hoosier Science and Engineering Fair (March 2014); Celebrate Science Indiana (September 2014); Humane Society of Indianapolis (January 2015 to present); Moorlands Camp in Jamaica (camp counselor, summer 2015)

Leadership: Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society (vice president, January 2013 to present); American Chemical Society (student member, June 2013 to present); Butler University Intercollegiate YMCA (volunteer development coordinator, April 2014 to present); Lilly Scholars Network (secretary, April 2014 to present); American Chemical Society Student Affiliates (vice president, May 2014 to present); Sigma Nu fraternity (sentinel, January 2015 to present)

Honors: Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship (2012); dean’s list (2012 to 2015); Sigma Nu fraternity New Member Scholar of the Year (April 2013); Butler University Top 10 Male Most Outstanding Student (April 2014); Butler University Department of Chemistry Scholarship Award (spring 2014); Sigma Nu fraternity Scholar of the Year (April 2015); Butler University Department of Chemistry Junior Chemistry Award (spring 2015); Goldwater scholarship (spring 2015)

Family: Parents, Joey and Beth Gallion; sister, Hannah Gallion

Pull Quote

“Just because you’re from a small town doesn’t mean that you’re not able to do something. Never settle, always dream big and get involved as early as possible. By becoming involved, hopefully a lot of opportunities present themselves to you.”

Luke Gallion of Brownstown

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.