These outstanding students offer a snapshot of the nearly 215 undergraduate students that major in Chemistry at UConn. Click on their photos below to learn about their favorite classes, research experiences, and why they chose to major in Chemistry!

Spencer Fontaine
Victoria Livingston
Jeffrey Lockwood
Ana Magano
Morgan Rhinehart
Spencer Yang

Meet:

Spencer Fontaine

Expected Graduation: '20

Hometown: Monroe Township, NJ

Scholarships/Awards: Leadership Scholarship

Clubs/Activities: BROS (Brothers Reaching Our Society), Chemistry Club, UConn Outdoors, Undergraduate Research

Why did you choose to major in Chemistry?

Ever since I could remember I was always interested in the sciences, but it was my high school chemistry teacher, Ms. Daddio, that helped me discover my passion for chemistry. For me she brought the chemistry class to life and it really encouraged me to pursue chemistry as a major.

Why did you choose UConn?

I chose to come to UConn for a few reasons, one being financial and the leadership scholarship they extended to me which helped ease this burden on my family with three kids in college. I also wanted to surround myself in an environment which provided many opportunities. As a large university, UConn offered various activities and lectures along with the usual course load which has allowed me to grow and develop into who I am today.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

My favorite class so far has been the French Cinema class I took my junior year. I have always enjoyed my chemistry classes, but I appreciated being able to take a class unrelated to my major and explore my other interests outside of the STEM courses.

What are your plans after graduation? 

After graduation I plan on using my experiences to invoke change that will positively affect our environment. I want to use my chemistry degree to help bring about a greener, cleaner future.

Please briefly describe your research experience and the impact it has had on you.

I started working in Dr. Provatas and Dr. Stuart’s lab this past summer, and it has been one of the best experiences I’ve had at UConn. Being able to get hands on experience has helped to apply the ideas and concepts learned in class and has given me the confidence in my abilities to succeed in industry.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

My advice to incoming freshman would be don’t limit yourself to subjects within your major, explore as many different things as you can. UConn is a large school and with that comes many opportunities to get your feet wet in a variety of clubs, activities, and lectures which can help you discover the many interests and passions you may have.

What is your favorite place on campus and why?

My favorite place on campus is mirror lake. For me, it’s a place I can go to either enjoy the weather or just clear my head.

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Victoria Livingston

Expected Graduation: '21

Hometown: Holland, MA

Scholarships/Awards: Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Scholarship - Women in Business, ACS-CVS Summer Undergraduate Research Fund - UConn Award, American Legion Scholastic Excellence, UConn Dean's List

Clubs/Activities: Drill Team, Arnold Air Society (Information Management Officer), Math Club, Volunteering/Shadowing at Hartford Hospital, Pinkhassik Laboratory Research Group

Why did you choose to major in Chemistry?

I chose to major in Chemistry largely due to the fact that I took to the material at a young age. Due to my mother’s occupation as a pharmaceutical chemist, I recall my early infatuation with molecular chemistry as early as elementary school. As I steadily progressed through secondary education, I uncovered a field of science where I excel coupled with ample hands-on laboratory settings to streamline my intellectual curiosity. 

Why did you choose UConn?

I chose to attend the University of Connecticut for a multitude of reasons. One being the financial incentive of enrollment seeing as though I would complete University without out-of-pocket cost. Secondly, I was able to transfer Advanced Placement credit which in turn will allow me to graduate in three years. Additionally, UCONN offers many resources for research and funds that generously support extracurricular academia while simultaneously cultivating an atmosphere of collaboration and networking for young adults to take the great leap into their professional lives.  

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

In my time at UCONN I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my courses. With that, I could not (with honesty) choose my favorite class. However, I believe that an underrated portion of each class that I have participated in is office hours. In my experience, the one-on-one time is extremely beneficial to both parties. The professor sees what material could be harder to grasp and possibly edit future lectures to clear up any misconceptions, all the while the student gets to be the sole focus of the professor’s expertise. Not to mention that it is a fantastic way to normalize view their professors in a different light; not only a teacher, but a mentor.

What are your plans after graduation?

Upon graduation, as well as my commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force, I will attend medical school and serve my country as a distinguished soft-tissue surgeon. 

Please briefly describe your research experience and the impact it has had on you.

To credit my extraordinary high-school (Tantasqua Regional High) I knew that my college extracurriculars must include laboratory research. With this in mind, it was no surprise that I began research before I completed freshman orientation (Dr. Xiuling Lu Laboratory). Since then, I have found an incredible research laboratory in the Chemistry department under Dr. Eugene Pinkhassik. This past summer I was awarded a grant funded by the American Chemical Society, with their support I have and will continue to develop my project which aims to linking hollow porous polymer nanocapsules to produce higher-order materials via Click Chemistry. Furthermore, my laboratory experience has afforded me the distinct pleasure to work with a group of motivated graduate students that are willing to aid me at every turn as well as my fellow undergraduates, who offer their invaluable friendship. 

Were there any challenges that you had to overcome while at UConn so far?

Since enrolling at UCONN I recall being initially struck with the amount of activities, seminars, lectures, courses, extracurriculars, Dairy bar ice-cream socials etc. I remember delegating time especially tough to include everything from schoolwork, lectures and a dash of leisure into my schedule. Balance is initially tough to come by in your first experience at the University, but I found that you can be extremely savvy with how you spend your time. For me, daily planners offered a streamlined approach allowing me to maximize my daily accomplishments. 

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen? 

This is your college experience. Grab hold of it and don’t let go because college is what you make of it!

What is your favorite place on campus and why? 

Since I live off-campus, I most enjoy the Commuter Lounge because of its accommodations of lockers, microwaves and its cozy study atmosphere. Additionally, it serves as a handy meeting spot to catch up with friends. It’s a true gem, check it out!

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Jeffrey Lockwood

Expected Graduation: '20

Hometown: Southington, CT

Awards/Scholarships: Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (Chem department), Summer Undergraduate Research Fund (Office of Undergraduate Research), ACS travel grant, URAP

Why did you choose to major in Chemistry?

I initially enjoyed chemistry because my AP chem teacher always incorporated cool demonstrations into his lessons. I liked the idea of how he easily applied concepts to tangible items and decided to become a chemistry major to further develop this interest.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

My favorite class at UConn was Music 1003 because it taught how music progressed each decade starting in the 1900’s all the way to the early 2000’s. I come from a pretty heavy music background and found the history involved in the class extremely interesting, it was also nice to take a break from STEM coursework.

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan to pursue doctoral studies after graduation toward a Ph.D. in organic synthesis. I would like to be well versed in synthesis so I may take these skills to the pharmaceutical field and eventually become a medicinal chemist.

Please briefly describe your research experience and the impact it has had on you.

This will be my third year in the Dr. Gregory Sotzing research laboratory where I work with discovering the cause of breakdown within organic dielectric polymers. This lab has been an amazing experience as it has allowed me to step beyond my chemistry textbook and actively apply information within the lab setting. I urge all underclassmen to join a lab as soon as possible because it will show you chemistry beyond the classroom and allow you to create a true appreciation for the science.

Has a certain advisor had a significant impact on you?

Osker Dehapsu has definitely had a significant, beneficial impact on me. I met him freshman year as he taught the one credit UNIV class, and I have been going to him for advice ever since. I am grateful to have met him because he is always willing to help and always seems to know the perfect way to approach a problem. Osker has helped me obtain grants, fellowships, travel funding, enter a research lab, and has also given advice on how to get the internship I worked last summer. It is important to build connections with faculty/staff as they have seen many students in your same shoes and can offer advice that you would never even think about.

Were there any challenges that you had to overcome while at UConn so far?

There were a lot of challenges I faced when I got to UConn, but the biggest was being able to create a schedule. Mixing in laundry, dining hall, walking to classes, homework, extracurricular's, a social life, and may other tasks is a hard thing to do. I had to figure out a schedule before I could really start to engage with my coursework, however, once I decided to do laundry every Sunday, or leave with 5 extra minutes to get to class, etc. I really begin to love my UConn experience.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

If I were to go back to freshman year again, I would try to not be as discouraged by my first couple of semester’s grades. The “weed out” classes are very much a real thing and it is okay if you do not ace every class as soon as you get to UConn. You have enough semesters to salvage your GPA, and honestly, you do not need a 4.0 to secure an awesome internship or program (although I am definitely not promoting being laxidasical and failing all of your classes). Keep your head straight, get help when you need it, do what you think is right and you’ll go far!

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Ana Magano

Expected Graduation: '22

Hometown: Waterford, CT

Awards/ Scholarships: Leadership Scholarship

Clubs/Activities: "La Comunidad Intelectual", Leadbeater Lab, UConn Catering

Why did you chose to major in Chemistry?

I have always liked math. Chemistry involves math, but I also like how applicable chemistry is to every day life. We wouldn't be able to live without it, which is why I find it so interesting. It also makes me think a lot and I like that. 

Why did you choose UConn? 

I chose UConn because it is known for being a great school, its beautiful, has such a diverse population, and it is was very affordable compared to some of my other options.

Please briefly describe your research experience and the impact it has had on you. 

I started doing research in the spring of my freshman year. That project involved making a compound that would hopefully deter mosquitoes infected with the Zika virus. The idea was to then use that compound in laundry detergent, so that people would have a mosquito deterrent in their clothes. Over the summer, I got a grant to work for 10 weeks on campus. I am currently working under a grad student and we are working on synthesizing different amines that the MCB department will use when researching parasitic activity. I have liked doing research because it is very different than lab work that we do during class. It is not as straightforward, and I have really enjoyed the exposure. 

Has a certain advisor had a significant impact on you?

I am currently part of the Leadbeater lab and I would have to say that Dr. Leadbeater has really helped in my development as a chemistry student. I started in research early compared to most, and that was thanks to Dr. Leadbeater giving me that opportunity, so he has really helped me as a chemistry student. 

Were there any challenges that you had to overcome while at UConn so far?

My biggest challenge so far was Biology 1107. That was, by far, the hardest class that I have taken, and it caused a lot of stress in my spring semester. I ended with a B-, so I was happy, but that was definitely a class that was very difficult and really pushed me/effected me. 

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

Talk to your professors after every exam that you do poorly on. I didn't do this my first semester, but second semester, if I did not do well on a chemistry exam, I went and talked to Dr. Cady. He was more than happy to see me, and it made me feel a lot better going and talking to him. They are there to help you, and they are all willing to meet with you and talk to you. I didn't take advantage of it as much in my first semester, but I did my second semester and it helped me to understand the material much better.

What is your favorite place on campus and why?

I love the track. Running is a way for me to relax and the track has a really nice view of the sunset. So during the week, I would go out and run around the track after dinner to decompress, as well as watch the sunset at the same time. It was just really peaceful and calming, and it's something that I will continue to do throughout college. 

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Morgan Rhinehart

Expected Graduation: '21

Hometown: Waterbury, CT

Clubs/Activities: UConn Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Student Health Outreach Team (S.H.O.T), UConn Pre-Medical society

Why did you choose to major in Chemistry?

I chose to major in chemistry because of its role in nature, man made materials, and even our own bodily functions, which leads to endless learning and discovery.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

My favorite class at UConn so far was a film class because it was a break from a “hard” science course like biology, physics, or chemistry. The course focused on topics like the meaning of happiness and different ways the human psyche of the director gets portrayed in the scene. Reoccurring topics in the class included how every scene adds to the overall story, what the director is trying to say, and how information can be misconstrued by over analyzing scenes from every small detail. The course helped me figure out what I wanted out of my life while learning about the history of film.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation my career aspirations are to use my passions for science and medicine to help diagnose and find treatments for people with diseases.

What has been your best/most influential UConn experience so far?

The most influential UConn experience so far was a Student Support Services workshop I went to about leadership skills for first generation and underrepresented students. It was inspiring to hear from successful speakers, that were once in the same position as myself, who achieved what they wanted regardless of social or economic obstacles. I still look back on that experience, using it as motivation to work towards my goals and become the type of leader I want to be.

Were there any challenges that you had to overcome while at UConn so far?

Learning how to be more outgoing and being able to network were the challenges I had to overcome while at UConn so far. My shy and reserved traits made it difficult to go out and join clubs/organizations I wanted to join at first. However, I made great connections and memories once I got out of my comfort zone, and I do not regret it.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

Advice I would give to incoming freshman is to not get frustrated if you find your high school study habits do not work anymore. Also, it may take you a little longer than expected to find a studying style that works best for you and gives you the best results. Try going to the Academic Achievement Center for help.

What is your favorite place on campus and why?

My favorite place on campus used to be the tree swings at Mirror lake until the trees got sick and the swings were removed. Now my favorite place on campus are the benches at the Beanery.

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Spencer Yang

Spencer Yang

Expected Graduation: '21

Hometown: Boston, MA

Clubs/Activities: Minority Association of Pre-medical Students, Chinese Undergraduate Student Association, Student Health Outreach Team, Pre-Med Society

Why did you choose to major in Chemistry?

I chose to major in chemistry because I find chemistry jokes really intriguing. All of the good ones argon but it's the bad ones that I find hilarious.

Were there any challenges that you had to overcome while at UConn so far?

One of the challenges that I had to overcome is to do enough planning. When I was in high school, I would never use the calendar app on my phone. Now, I realized I wouldn't be able to remember every exam date, every club meeting time, and other miscellaneous things. College life is busy. So, I ended up using the calendar app to plan and to remind me of the daily tasks I had to complete.

What has been your favorite class at UConn so far?

My favorite class at UConn so far is a graduate course which Dr. Quardokus taught during my second semester. Although ninety-five percent of the material seemed alien to me, I find the class compelling because Dr. Q and her students had a great sense of humor and I also get to acquire knowledge about things that I had never heard of before.

What are your plans after graduation?

Initially, I was planning to attend medical school and become a surgeon after a few years. Now, I plan to attend a graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. degree.

What has been your most influential UConn experience so far?

One of the most influential experience happened to be an office hour with Dr. Abbott. It was the time of the semester where I began to try not as hard as I would like myself to do. Since I was aware that my effort was quite lackluster, I went to Dr. Abbott for a few words of motivation. And four words were engraved in my memory: "Do something about it." Concise and effective.

Are there any friends you would like to thank?

I'm grateful for meeting nice and friendly people on campus, especially I would like to thank my friends Kevin and Andy. I had a great time with them in my first year at UConn and I couldn't wish for anything better.

What advice would you give to incoming freshmen?

My advice for incoming freshmen would be to not worry and feel burnt out near the end of the semester. Finish strong and you'll feel fulfilled once the semester is over.

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