Brent Wyatt is launching into a career in chemistry with a little help from a professor who never saw him in class.
“Winning the first George Splittgerber Scholarship in Chemistry has made it possible for me to stay on campus this final semester and complete the American Chemical Society certification program,” said Wyatt. “It will definitely help me in finding a job after graduation.”
The College of Natural Sciences’ ACS-certified bachelor’s degree provides rigorous preparation for a career as a scientific professional. The scholarship was established by Dr. Glenn Boutilier and his wife, Donna, to honor the 40-year career of Professor George Splittgerber, who recently passed away at age 97.
Wyatt, son of an Air Force family and a graduate of Rampart High School in Colorado Springs, has also given himself more than a little help preparing for his career. For the past two years, the Honors student has been the only undergraduate in the lab of Professor Steve Strauss, working on lithium-ion battery technology and absorbing concepts and techniques applicable to any aspect of chemistry.
When asked how he selected Wyatt to join the lab, Strauss says he didn’t. “He selected me. He sent me an email saying he was interested in my research and that he couldn’t think of any lab manager who couldn’t use an assistant. He was a good student academically, so I said yes. And he has done an outstanding job, never afraid to ask questions and always learning new things. The work he did on his Honors thesis was at the level of a first-year grad student.”
Wyatt’s advice to students? Take every opportunity to gain practical experience. “Don’t be scared to speak up,” he said. “Research experience is invaluable to have on your resume.”
Wyatt has also added a year’s internship at HP to his resume, and he would like to continue with the company here in Fort Collins after graduation. If that doesn’t work out, though, he has several backup plans, companies on the cutting edge of battery chemistry and materials science. But he knows the future is not all about work, thanks to Splittgerber.
During his first two years on campus, before he joined the lab, Wyatt played trombone with many ensembles on campus, eventually working as events staff at the University Center for the Arts.
“I would regularly greet an older gentleman at music events of all kinds,” Wyatt recalled. “It was nothing short of inspiring to see this very elderly gentleman so active in University events and performances. This man was George, and I will carry with me always his example of how one should live their life fully and happily, whether one is 9 years old or 90.”