Chemistry major named Sommerville Scholar

Garrett CorlessWhether he’s pondering the chemical properties of molecules or studying federal court cases, Garrett Corless ’14 brings an inquisitive mind to the task, which contributed to his being named the 2014 Sommerville Scholar, the highest academic recognition awarded by the College.

A native of Wallingford, Conn., Garrett is majoring in chemistry with minors in mathematics and biology. He currently carries a cumulative GPA of 3.82 and has been on the Dean’s List every semester. He has served as a PASS leader in chemistry and is a tutor and laboratory assistant in physics.

“He has a unique ability to think about information, synthesize conclusions, and design experiments to test specific hypotheses,” said Garrett’s advisor, associate professor of chemistry Dr. Bill Lokar. “His research abilities are definitely among the best I have seen at this level. … He thinks beyond what is on the surface and is able to think deeply about what he is working on.”

Garrett is helping Dr. Lokar conduct research on surfactant adsorption, which has to do with how well certain materials stick to surfaces. While their work is theoretical, real-world applications apply to everything from how well water repels from windshields to how to remove stains from clothing.

Garrett was initially a biology major, but he jokes that Dr. Lokar “swindled” him into switching to chemistry. It turns out to have been a good fit with his interest in anesthesiology, but Garrett is keeping his options open for cardiology and surgery as well.

“I’ve been interested in medicine since the sixth grade,” he said. Garrett was able to shadow doctors at a hospital in South Carolina over the summer, and even survived watching autopsies. He is already applying to medical school at the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University.

As a Westover Fellow, Garrett has served as treasurer, vice president, and co-president of the Westover Society Executive Board.

“Westover is easily one of the top reasons I came to Lynchburg and stayed at Lynchburg,” he said, noting that he got to study topics in the humanities that he would not have otherwise. He mentioned a class in the federal court system with Beth Packert and in sports economics with Dr. Dan Messerschmidt as particularly eye-opening.

Garrett is a member of the Phi Eta Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi national honor societies, a member of the Beta Beta Beta National Biology Honor Fraternity, and is active in the Lynchburg Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society.

He also serves as president of the Interfraternity Council and is a member of Phi Delta Theta. “The brotherhood we share is very important to me,” he said. “It’s another family I found down here.” He has participated in Relay for Life for the past three years, the last two with his fraternity.

This year’s Sommerville Scholar also has an athletic bent. He been a member of the Club Lacrosse team, including the NCLL National Championship team in 2011, and has served as treasurer and vice president of the team. He also plays club soccer and a variety of intramurals.

Garrett wrote in his application, “Life at Lynchburg College … has been the most hectic exciting, enriching, and wonderful time of my life. …From Dean Eccles’ “Gnarly Beard” to the delightful spirit of Anne Gibbons at Relay for Life, LC has proven to me that this is where I belong physically, mentally, and academically.”

Four other students interviewed for the Sommerville Scholar were seniors: Karen Butler, Samantha Chapman, Austin John, and Ashley Vogan.