Alumni Spotlight - Dr. Bethany Caulkins

"Once a Marauder. Always a Marauder."

Dr. Bethany Caulkins

As early as high school, Bethany found her love for chemistry.  During her senior year of high school, one of her teachers gave the class an assignment that included writing a letter to themselves to receive in ten years.  Bethany recalls receiving this message after she already completed her bachelor’s degree in chemistry.  The note read, “Oh my god you love chemistry.  You never expected to love it this much, and you should go to college and major in biochemistry.”  Although the letter arrived after she already completed her bachelor’s degree, it was reassuring to read and confirm she made the right choice in her educational path.

Not only did Bethany graduate from Antelope Valley College, but she also transferred to California State San Bernardino and earned her Bachelor’s degree, then became Dr. Bethany Caulkins by receiving her Ph.D. from the University of California Riverside in 2017. She is now working in a postdoctoral researcher position at Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Bethany’s love for chemistry played a huge part of her journey in encouraging others to enjoy science.  While attending graduate school, Bethany focused on outreach events to elementary aged children and showed them how fun and exciting science could be.  After giving a presentation to 2nd and 3rd graders, she had a young girl approach her and say, “You are really pretty for a scientist.  I didn’t know girls can do science.”  This kind of feedback reassured her that her outreach was making a difference, especially to young girls who may be discouraged to study science.  “They need to see there are people they can look up to, especially seeing other girls in science,” said Bethany.

While attending Antelope Valley College, Bethany felt most inspired by her professor Dr. Jessica Harper (pictured above).  She enjoyed her passion for education along with her teaching style.  Bethany felt that Dr. Harper did a great job interacting with her students and showing she cared about their success.  From the beginning, Bethany looked up to her and appreciated the continued support she received.  Dr. Harper has continued to keep in touch with Bethany as she finished graduate school, and they have since become good friends.  Bethany stated, “When I teach, I try to model the way she teaches.  She has continued to give me the confidence to keep going.”

When asked if Bethany had any advice for students just getting started, she highly recommended students complete as many classes as they can at a community college.  By understanding what the prerequisites are, they can save a lot of money by completing as much as possible before transferring.  She also found the class sizes at Antelope Valley College were significantly smaller than her university ones which allowed her to get more individualized attention.
Bethany also encourages current students not to be afraid of imperfection.  Understand that making mistakes is part of the learning process.  Students should focus more on the quality of their work and get a clear understanding of how each of their classes builds upon each other.  Bethany also expressed the importance of not compartmentalizing her classes.  Although each class was unique in their own way, they all support one another, especially in graduate school.

Major Fields of Study:
Physical Chemistry, Analytical Chemistry, and Chemical Biology

Teaching Experience:

  • University of California Riverside: Organic Chemistry Laboratory, Physical Chemistry for the Life Sciences, General Chemistry, and Quantum Chemistry.
  • Professional Memberships:
  • American Chemical Society (ACS), 2011-present
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2014-present
  • Chemistry Graduate Student Association President, UCR, 2016-2017

Awards and Honors:

  • Distinguished Teaching Award, 2017
  • 58th ENC Student Travel Stipend, 2017
  • ACS Division of Biological Chemistry Travel Grant, 2017
  • Poster Award, Rocky Mountain Conference, 2016
  • Graduate Division Dissertation Year Program Fellowship, 2015
  • AAAS Robert I. Larus Award, 2014
  • 1st Place Award for Oral Presentation in Chemistry and Biochemistry, AAAS Pacific Division, 2014
  • Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, 2013
  • Chancellor’s Distinguished Fellowship, 2011
  • B.S. with High Honors, ACS Certified, 2011


Last updated: May 22, 2018