David Chavez: Planting the Seeds for Future Generations of Scientists
Years ago, David Chavez was a student from the small rural town of Taos, N. M., who took advantage of the American Chemical Society’s Project SEED. Today, he’s an award-winning chemist changing countless lives by introducing students in his hometown to the world of science.
David participated in ACS Project SEED during his sophomore and senior years of high school, working alongside mentors at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Watching scientists at work opened a whole new world for David as he learned what the life of a scientist was really like and what his career options were.
“I learned that if I worked hard, then I could be someone who worked on cutting-edge science too,” he says. To pursue his passion for science, David set his sights on attending the California Institute of Technology, a goal he wouldn’t have considered before Project SEED.
Project SEED Provided a Path
With a B.S. in chemistry from Caltech and a Ph.D. in chemistry from Harvard, David returned to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, this time as a synthesis chemist working on sustainable products and processes that reduce the impact on the environment. His development of environmentally friendly (high-nitrogen) molecular materials for the Department of Energy earned him the prestigious Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award in 2011.
Always mindful of the role that Project SEED played in his accomplishments, David is determined to provide opportunities for young people in Taos like those Project SEED afforded him.
“I want to expose students to some aspect of a life and a career that they might not otherwise see,” he explains. So David reaches out to students of all ages: acting as a mentor, arranging speakers, volunteering in the classroom, teaching classes and serving on the board of education to set policies on math and science curriculums.
“I’m planting the seed in younger students like Project SEED did in me and then hopefully they will go out and be like me to others,” David says.
He hopes that his message will inspire the next generation of scientists in his community.