University News

We the Geeks: Science Grads Create a More Perfect Future

Published: April 29, 2014 | Category: Academics

After spending the last four years attacking the intellect’s most extreme sports, the Walter Maxwell Gibson College of Science & Engineering’s top students within the Class of 2014 are reaching graduation day and begging for more.

One of these extreme competitors is Mike Trujillo, chemistry major from Tooele, Utah, who was fed the periodic table instead of cereal as a child. With an acceptance letter to the University of Notre Dame’s doctorate of analytical and physical chemistry program Trujillo hopes to conduct research in optimal electronic properties and solar energy conversion.

“Having research experience was my ticket into Notre Dame,” stated Trujillo. “I know I wouldn’t have been able to receive research experiences of this magnitude at a larger institution.”

With aspirations of professorship, Trujillo hopes to stay in academia and become like the faculty members whose tutelage prepared him to receive his doctorate.

It’s with exceptional professors that several soon-to-be graduates claim success. One of these graduates is Gordon Haight.

A geology major from South Jordan broke away from his job as a baker to continue his education and found academic triumph in the hills. Now graduating, Haight has rocked his undergraduate experience with the help of Jennifer Hargrave, assistant professor of geology, he conducted paleoenvironmental research with National Geographic and the Geological Society of America in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.

Haight stated of his research experience with his professor, “We spent three weeks in the field and during that time my education was her only priority. If I had a question we would sit down and she would help me figure it out. I couldn’t receive that kind of attention as an undergrad anywhere else.”

Now finishing his requirements for his undergraduate degree, Haight has been accepted into the University of Nevada, Las Vegas master’s of geoscience program with the hopes to be a consulting geologist for businesses.

Taking the same path to graduate school like Haight is Michael Phelan, but this engineering student had a different academic path than most, but amidst the trials he came out with some of the highest grades in his class.

Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, Phelan struggled in his classes but found his calling, computers. A self-declared computer whiz, Phelan created a computer game for those with autism, a project he said led him to the University of Utah’s electrical and computer engineering master’s program.

Going on to state his purpose of obtaining a master’s degree, Phelan said, “I want to continue creating games and applications that will benefit those with autism, like myself and my brother.”

Another graduate school bound senior is Samantha Hirschi, nutrition major from Salt Lake City, Utah, whose eyes are set on the University of Pittsburg master’s of dietetics program, where she will become a registered dietitian.

“I began as an English major, but after taking a nutrition course I was hooked and switched to nutrition,” explained Hirschi. “I cannot wait to work with patients and help them find ways to be healthier.”

With students from all across the College of Science & Engineering migrating to graduate and doctoral schools once they leave T-Bird Nation, a few students are flying off to internships and jobs when they leave the nest.

One of those students is Evan Whipple, nursing major from Ephraim, Utah, who never thought he would declare himself a nursing student until he witnessed his parents in a motorcycle accident, which gave him a desire to know how to help a person in pain.

Now a senior, Whipple was chosen to intern at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. With only 50 students chosen out of the 800 plus applicants, Whipple will be spending his time in the medical cardiology intensive care unit.

“The ICU is where I thrive,” exclaimed Whipple. “When I saw my parents wreck their motorcycle, I hated that I didn’t know how to help them, now I do. I hope to work high-intensity care units and always know how to help a patient in pain.”

Whipple and Hirschi are like many T-Birds, changing their flight path after the initial college courses and Adam Hendrickson joins them, who switched from architecture to CAD/CAM after his first design course.

Hendrickson has accepted a position with IM Flash Technologies where he will be a technician and engineer. Hendrickson humbly gives credit to his professors for connecting him with a career immediately following graduation.

“My professors have amazing relationships with companies and it’s an instant in for all of us students,” said Hendrickson. “Companies know our professors and trust that the education we are receiving is top notch.”

Hendrickson may give the credit to the SUU faculty, but his class projects set him apart. During his senior year, this T-Bird manufactured his own 3-D printer and hopes he can set a trend for 3-D printers to be made at reduced costs and sold to high schools and junior highs.  

Whether these self-declared computer whizzes, geology experts, chemistry geeks or engineering zealots are moving on to graduate school or beginning their career, we have high hopes of the great heights the Class of 2014 Thunderbirds will soar. 

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