By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis

When Alex Ashley ’22 was accepted into the College as its fifth-ever Lafayette-Jamaica Scholar, he was elated to receive the prestigious award. “I am grateful to Lafayette,” he says, “and because they gave me this rare opportunity, I was determined to gain the necessary skills in order to provide a return on their investment.”

Alex Ashley smiles

Alex Ashley

Ashley’s first year as an undergraduate also happened to be associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering Ryan Van Horn ’04’s first year teaching at Lafayette—and when Ashley participated in Van Horn’s “A Plastic World” First-Year Seminar, he proactively sought a student research position to assist the professor in his work with polymers. 

“Prof. Van Horn and I met weekly to discuss scientific articles and my inquiries concerning them,” Ashley says. “Finally, the spring semester arrived, and he accepted me as his research student. After two years as a research assistant, I continue to refine my experiential skills and conduct research with Prof. Van Horn.”

The one-on-one research Ashley currently conducts with Van Horn is centered around studying the structure and macroscopic properties of polycaprolactone and polyethylene—two highly accessible types of FDA-approved plastics—and analyzing how these properties can be manipulated to enhance how they are used in biomedical items such as pill capsules and polymer films. Ashley and Van Horn are also writing a scientific paper together, titled “Enhancing Minority Block Crystallization in Asymmetric PEO-b-PCL Copolymers,” which they plan to publish by spring 2021.

Alex Ashley and Prof Ryan Van Horn

Alex Ashley and Prof. Ryan Van Horn ’04 in 2019.

“Graduate schools want students who have research experience,” says Ashley, who hopes to eventually pursue a doctoral degree at either Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or University of California, Berkeley, and a career as a professor. “Not only will my years of research experience strengthen my application when applying to graduate programs, but this planned publication will also signal my critical thinking and analytical skills.”

While Ashley finds his current studies fulfilling, he plans to use his knowledge and technical skills to conduct additional research on renewable energy as a graduate student.

“Solar panels are great, but because people aren’t home during the day, the energy they generate in the daytime dissipates. Then, when people are home at night and actually want to use the energy, they don’t have access to it,” Ashley explains. “I want to help find a way to store that energy and make it accessible throughout the day, and thereby bring the world closer to a more sustainable future.”

Read about other STEM Stars.

Categorized in: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, First-Year Seminar, Innovation and Research, Mathematics, News and Features, STEM, Students, Sustainability


  1. Andrea Brown says:

    So proud of you Alex. With that great attitude and Christ in the vessel, you will achieve your hearts desire to help the world. I wish you the very best.

  2. Nicola Mckellop says:

    Lex, as I shared in a private message, I am so excited and proud of your accomplishments that I had to share this article with multiple colleagues at work. I know this is just the tip of the iceberg for you. Praying earnestly that as you advance to even greater accomplishments God’s grace and peace will abound. Love you.

  3. Deanna Mckellop says:

    Great job cousin keep up the good work!! You inspire me to work hard at my studies and I hope that you will continue to be a great role model for everyone around you.

  4. Janet Pryce says:

    Alex I’m proud of your achievements. You are blessed and highly favored by God, keep on the road of excellence my dear.

  5. Deniz Ozbay says:

    Excellent job, always so proud of you!

  6. Earl Ashley says:

    Great start Alex. Keep the momentum going.

  7. Alricky Ashley says:

    God gave Solomon wisdom beyond his years so keep trusting in the Lord and He will direct your path. There is no limit with God.
    I am so proud to be your uncle .
    Great work keep it up.

  8. Howard Facey says:

    Congratulations Alex .may Jehovah God continue to grant you wisdom,Knowledge and understanding as you fully actualize your dreams.

  9. Coleen Mighty says:

    Wow!I am so elated to read of you growth and progress in your studies Alex. Proud for your parents and more of you!!

  10. Roxroy & Nicole Ashley says:

    It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.
    -Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

    Continue to dream big Alex. We love you, support you, and look forward to seeing you excel in your endeavors. -God Bless

  11. Bryce Ashley says:

    Great job cuz! I’m so happy you are pursuing your dreams. You’re a great cousin and I will always look up to you.
    -Bryce Ashley

  12. Eric White says:

    Wow… Alex you have proven the theory that “we are only limited by our own imagination”. I know you dad and mom are so proud of you, so am I. Well done.

  13. Florence Thompson says:

    Wow, wow Alex I am so proud of you, you are a beacon of your family and Jamaica. Your is proud of you and so are all of us. Congratulations to the Ashley for this milestone. Continue to do what you doing Alex. I pray God continue to guide and order your steps.

  14. Paulette Myrie says:

    Congratulations Alex to you and your family. You are a dedicated future leader and the Myrie family wishes you all the best .

  15. Angella Martin says:

    I am very proud of you Alex for setting your goals and embarking on a journey to achieving them while making your family and country very proud and may the lord continue to bless and guide you on this magnificent journey.

  16. doreth shand says:

    Congratulations Alex I’m so proud of you and you achievements. May the Lord continue to open doors and surround you with unending favours.

  17. Valrie Brown says:

    Excellent Alex. Your community and extended family and friends here in Jamaica are super proud of you.

  18. Auntie Sandra says:

    Alex I am really so proud of u. With God as your guide there no telling what you can accomplish. Keep up the great work.

  19. Wade Morgan says:

    Alex I am very happy to be reading about your participation in studies which in the future will change to world. Continue to strive for excellence. The darker the night, the brighter the light. Stay focused!!

  20. Sephlin mignot- watts says:

    I am very proud of you Alex, you are doing yourself and country proud.I admire your humility and am sure many will follow your example soon.In a short while the world will read about you.Continue to strive for excellence. Walk good!!!!

  21. Darolyn Henry-Cross says:

    Oh GREAT.!! Wonderful. Way to Go Lex.
    I am so proud to see this and to read of your journey my dear nephew. You make us All very proud and I know that you will attain all the goals that you have set so far and MORE. Tje sky is no limit.
    Continue your upward trajectory and may God’s grace and mercy be attendant to your path continually. Blessings and have fun. One luv.

  22. Janet Malarve says:

    Excellent job Alex, I am proud of you.Continue to soar. Congratulations to Bulah and Ian Ashley .I am proud of you guys.

  23. Aunt Monique says:

    The heights that great men reached and kept….. Continue to make us proud. ………..

  24. Bulah Henry-Ashley says:

    Alex, I am super proud of your dedication, commitment and aspirations. Continue to chart the path to new discoveries as the true scientist that you are.

  25. Ian Ashley says:

    Excellent going son, I am proud of you and what you are doing in collaboration with such a proficient professor. After all, it’s all about growing in knowledge for life not just for yourself but the world.

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