Cody Newman, Bates College
Far from an afterthought as Cody Newman honed in on Bates and other NESCAC schools he applied to as a student at Montclair (N.J.) High School, the men's lacrosse program was one of Bates' central attractions. "I had really good interaction with coach Lasagna in the recruiting process, and I'd say that was a big part of what made the difference." Before Newman's freshman season had started, Bates men's lacrosse coach Peter Lasagna noticed a one-on-one faceoff workout he had set up with a senior teammate, in which he used his own recordings of referee-mimicking whistle cadences ("Down... Set... (Whistle!)"
"I had never seen that before, but what a great idea!" Lasagna recounted. Lasagna would soon learn more of the extent of Newman's micro-study of, and dedication to, his sport. Unless an afternoon lab prevented it, Newman was unfailingly the first to arrive at lacrosse practice and the last to leave. "He's all about the pursuit of excellence without in any way wanting to claim for it."
And about the same time Lasagna began to discover the ingenuity of Cody Newman, something similar began taking shape over in Dana Chemistry Hall. It wasn't long before a first-semester instructor and his eventual advisor, Professor Rachel Austin, noticed the intense and thorough work of Cody Newman the chemistry student — the eventual male Milton L. Lindholm Scholar-Athlete Award winner for maintaining the highest GPA among student-athletes, at 3.94.
Austin and her research team at the University of Maine, as described in the thesis project of Sarah Charley '11, "are designing and testing catalysts to use in a number of different refinement procedures.... analyzing, characterizing and building the ideal catalyst for hydrodeoxygenation" of unrefined pyrolysis oil culled from biomass organic compounds.
Newman took up an apparently small segment of a much bigger chunk of scientific discourse and cultivated it into an honors thesis project worthy of an academic superstar. "It is extraordinarily impressive for an undergraduate student to ask his own thesis questions, design his own experiments to probe those questions, carry out the work needed to answer the questions, read the published literature with the insight needed to synthesize it into a great thesis, and come up with clear results," said Austin.
Newman studied six catalysts, a series of metals, looking for which ones might provide a lot of activity, and then he explored several different frameworks that had different properties that could influence activity. "I looked at six total [catalysts], and four of them showed pretty good activity; two were kind of not that good," Newman said.
Actually, Newman's results proved to be both exciting and revelatory. "I was just sitting at my desk turning his thesis in to a publication," she wrote in an email. "His results are very clear and they raise far more interesting questions than they answer, which is what scientists love. However, because the results are so clear, the questions the results raise are far more nuanced than the questions we were asking at the start of the project."
While in the study of chemistry Newman may combine prodigious talent with rigorous self-discipline, in lacrosse it's more a lot of rigorous self-discipline that distinguishes him. Diligent work led to a respectable three-year stint as one of Bates' primary faceoff men and a team captain this year. In all, he took 503 faceoffs for the Bobcats, winning 232 of them for a respectable lifetime percentage of .461, including a career-best .521 success rate (75-144) in 2010. Newman also collected 107 ground balls, two goals and two assists in his career.
Asked if he wished for a more expanded role than those quick faceoff stints and not much else, Newman casts a quizzical glance at his questioner and pauses. "I don't think that's the case for me. I realize facing off is just something that you do in between playing offense or defense, but it's something I have always enjoyed. You know, if you're the faceoff guy taking a good amount of draws for the team, that's a really, really big role to play."