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A Passion for Artifacts

Chemistry alumna Kristen Frano, class of 2012 is earning her master's in chemistry at William and MaryKristen Frano '12 discovered her passion on an archaeological dig in Italy, using chemistry to date ancient Roman coins. Now she is working toward her masters degree in chemistry at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

Kristen came to Saint Anselm knowing that she wanted to major in chemistry, but her specific area of research was undecided. She liked the small community feel of the college and the intimacy of her science courses.

"The classes are small enough that even in the general chemistry classes the professors know your name and are more than willing to help you if you're struggling," says Kristen.

"I also appreciated that, for the most part, the professors at Saint Anselm teach the laboratory sections for the courses they taught, which I think makes the communication between the theoretical, lecture part of chemistry and the practical, bench-top chemistry much smoother."

"I realized that I liked doing research when I recognized that I was excited to go in to the lab after classes almost everyday."

Italy and Independent Research
As a senior Kristen did her required independent research with Professor Mary Kate Donais who specializes in the use of instrumentation for analytical measurements. Professor Donais' recent research efforts involve analytical measurements on archaeological samples such as ancient bronze coins, lead pipes, pieces of fresco, floors, and mortar.

Some of this work is conducted in the laboratories at Saint Anselm College, while a large amount is conducted using portable instrumentation at the Classics Department's archaeological excavation sites in Italy. During Kristen's sophomore year she spent time with Professor Donais on the dig site at Coriglia near Castel Viscardo, Italy.

This experience, her enjoyment of her analytical chemistry classes, and the fact that Professor Donais had been her academic advisor since freshman year all pushed Kristen toward her choice of independent research. She focused on analyzing the metal contents in Roman bronze coins that were brought back from the archeological dig. Kristen found working one-on-one with her professor extremely helpful. "I definitely liked being able to bounce ideas for research off of someone who had expertise and enthusiasm for their field."

"My Saint Anselm research on Roman coins made me realize that I was interested in using science to study art and cultural heritage objects. Now, at William & Mary studying oil paintings at the Colonial Williamsburg museum."

Chemistry and Art
Currently, Kristen is working at earning her masters in chemistry at the College of William and Mary where, as at Saint Anselm, the graduate courses are generally small, with individual attention for each student.

"It's a two-year program; I take classes and do research, and I am a teaching assistant for the first year. Then I move to full-time research the second year."

She's currently using a technique called Raman spectroscopy to study art samples from oil paintings at the museum at Colonial Williamsburg.

As for her plans after graduate school, Kristen is still unsure. "Originally I was planning on getting into art conservation science and looking for a job in an art museum doing research, but I also realized I like being a teaching assistant so I'm also thinking about teaching at either a high school level or at the community college, adult education level," says Kristen. "We'll see!"

Whatever she does, Kristen has the drive and skill to "dig in" anywhere and be successful in her field and in life.