Summer Studies: David Langley (’15) Undertakes Chemistry Internship at MIT

Posted: July 8, 2014

“I have discovered that science is not merely a tool for solving practical problems or making the world a better place,” wrote David Langley (’15) in a letter to his parents last spring. “It is a means by which we can grow in wisdom and gain a more complete understanding of the material order in nature — and that reveals something about the mind of God.”

That fuller sense of the meaning and purpose of natural science, Mr. Langley said, was the fruit of his participation in Thomas Aquinas College’s integrated academic program. And it is that understanding that guides him this summer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is one of three visiting undergraduate scientists working with the Jamison Group on the Neglected Tropical Diseases Project.

“I am working on two projects,” Mr. Langley writes. For the first, he is helping to structure and organize an undergraduate laboratory for MIT’s organic chemistry course. The second project involves developing biofuel technology via a relatively new technique known as flow chemistry. “As opposed to batch chemistry, flow chemistry is done using pumps and tubing and syringes,” Mr. Langley explains. “The advantage to flow chemistry is you are not limited volumetrically the way you are when you use beakers and such; you have an injector pump which controls the volume in the reaction.”

Notably, Mr. Langley applied — and was admitted — to MIT as an undergraduate three years ago. At the time, however, he decided to attend the College instead. “It seems that the best way to specialize in any future endeavor is by first understanding the whole of which my interest is just a part,” he reflects. Having now studied not only natural science, but also mathematics, language, literature, music, philosophy, and theology, he has the intellectual foundation, he says, to “grasp the ultimate significance of the subjects studied at a more particular level.”

Three years later, he is studying chemistry at MIT after all. “Only now,” he remarks, “I believe I am much more ready to study and to work there than I was three years ago.”