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Headshot of Elsa Huebsch at the Old Well

Elsa Huebsch’s love for chemistry was “sort of reverse engineered.” 

Huebsch, a senior from Littleton, Colorado, is passionate about creating solutions to combat climate change. Studying chemistry, she discovered, would help her do just that.  

“The more classes I have taken, the more fascinated I have become,” she said. 

Huebsch transferred to UNC as a sophomore. Carolina’s chemistry department called to her because of its faculty, students and focus on understanding the problem-solving process. 

Research and mentorship are also interests of Huebsch’s. She works in the lab of professor Alexander Miller, whose research team dedicated to “the discovery of new catalysts for the sustainable synthesis of chemicals and fuels.” 

She started with the lab as an undergraduate mentor to high school students through Catalyzing eXploration in Chemistry” and joined the Miller group as a student researcher the following semester. 

“It’s hard to define a ‘usual’ day in the Miller Lab,” she said, adding that tasks can include running experiments, reading papers and attending seminars. 

In tandem with her lab work, Huebsch will finish her senior thesis this semester. Her research focuses on “switchable catalysis.” 

“Nature is extremely efficient at catalysis, and we aim to achieve the same kind of control by developing materials which can be turned ‘on’ or ‘off’ through chemical switches like sodium,” she shared. “One day, we hope this will decrease the energy and waste needed to make all kinds of value-added chemicals.” 

When she’s not in the lab or the library, you can find Huebsch with her UNC Club Swim teammates, her “closest friends, biggest cheerleaders and greatest inspirations.”  

Her favorite Carolina memory was with her teammates, too. Last year, she won two national titles for backstroke at the College Club Swimming National Championships. 

“It was tight to the finish, but when I got my hand on the wall and looked up at my teammates, I saw them going absolutely berserk,” she said, adding that the victory was “even more special” because it was shared with her fellow Heels. 

By Jess Abel ’19

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