Branch/Rank/Length of Service/Duty detail:
USMC/ Sergeant/ 4 years active duty/ Training NCO and Assistant operations chief for Kilo Company 3rd Battalion 3d Marines
When did you arrive at UT?
I came to UTK in the fall of 2017 after the end of my active duty service.
What is your current major and have you stuck with the same major your entire time at UT?
My current major is Chemistry. I began my time at UTK as a physics major, then changed my major to biochemistry and cellular molecular biology (BCMB), but decided I was more interested In chemistry; therefore, I decided to become a chemistry major minoring in biology.
What other involvements have you had at UT? (i.e. groups, achievements, etc.)
I have been the president of SALUTE Veterans Honor Society since my sophomore year where we have worked together with Wreaths Across America to honor veterans on wreath day each year, on which wreaths are laid on the graves of veterans.
I have been involved heavily in research since coming to UT, starting freshman year with Dr. Haidong Zhou’s group in physics where we made single crystals for the study of structural transitions giving rise to changes in thermal conductivity, which yielded my first publication. (https://doi.org/10.1063/1.5096960.)
Following my Freshman year, I attended Harvard for a summer REU working in the Lab of Prof. David Weitz in soft condensed matter physics using microfluidics to make lipid bilayers to study protein function. The following summer I worked in Prof. George Whiteside’s group at Harvard studying the influence of terminal functional groups on quantum conductance in molecular electronic junctions. Whilst in BCMB I worked in the lab of Dr. Keerthi Krishnan at UTK studying neural plasticity in adult female mouse models of Rett syndrome (a neurodegenerative disease) resulting in my second publication (https://doi.org/10.1523/ENEURO.0500-19.2020.)
Whilst in Dr. Krishnan’s lab I won the Karolyn W. Fite research scholarship from the BCMB department for my research contributions. I was also awarded the Calvin Buehler scholarship in chemistry and the Mrs. Ralston Matheny scholarship from the University of Tennessee. In addition for my work in the Whiteside’s group at Harvard I won the Barry Goldwater Scholarship in 2020, and completed a course in Nanofabrication at the Harvard for nanoscale systems.
What are your plans following graduation?
Upon graduating from UTK I will attend Harvard University for my Ph.D. in physical chemistry likely in the group of Daniel Nocera. My research interests are understanding charge transport in semiconducting materials for applications in generating, using, and storing renewable energies primarily derived from solar power.
As a veteran, what are some positives you have had during your time here?
The Veterans Success Center has been a tremendous source of support throughout my time at UTK. Connecting with other veterans sharing stories and helping each other with schoolwork, it provided a great support system within which to pursue my studies. I also think as a veteran I have come into college with a different mindset. I did not find it as stressful as others might, which I think is something the military has prepared me (and I presume all veterans) for which made college a lot less difficult to handle.
Do you have any advice for current or incoming student veterans?
I would advise all veteran students, especially those who are interested in STEM, to apply to internships and scholarships, and to seek out faculty research advisers as soon as possible. UTK’s connection with ORNL can be a huge leverage in your scientific career, and building relationships and networking early can be a huge catapult for accessing opportunities that aren’t available to others. People are very interested in veterans especially in the sciences because science takes determination, work ethic, and a never quit attitude which many veterans bring to the lab. We may not be smarter but we’ll work harder, and that’s what people are looking for.