North Central College’s science alumni, guest speaker share careers

May 21, 2013

In what has become an annual tradition during Cornerstone Week, North Central hosted its second Science Alumni Event May 16. This year’s program featured guest speaker Michael Chapman, Ph.D., professor in the school of physics at Georgia Institute of Technology, and alumni Blake Young ’04 and Allison Beckham ’09. 

After a welcome by Stephen Johnston, Roger and Nadeane Hruby Professor in the Liberal Arts and Sciences and professor of biology, and introductions by President Troy Hammond, Young spoke about his career experiences. Since graduating with a degree in chemistry, Young has worked at Exelon Nuclear, Quad Cities Station, in a variety of positions in the chemistry and engineering departments. Currently, he’s a system engineer with responsibility for one of the site’s emergency systems.

“The most important thing I’ve been part of in my career is reactivity management. I use chemistry every day and monitor the various factors in the process of creating nuclear energy, detecting and resolving any issues,” says Young. While working at Exelon, Young added a master’s in organizational leadership from St. Ambrose University. “My interest in leadership led me to want more training, which has already advanced my career options.”

Beckham, a biology major, graduates from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in late May and will pursue cardiothoracic surgery as a surgery resident at Loma Linda University Medical Center in California. Her longtime passion for international medicine and public health was confirmed while working in hospitals in Uganda and Guatemala. “You can make a high impact in a needy country where resources are few, but a little work and effort make a big difference,” she says.

Young had some advice for students attending the event: “Develop your interview abilities and your resume early … and network, network, network, never forgetting the people who taught you.” He also encouraged students to never stop learning. “Research is great, but there’s even more to explore.”

Students asked Beckham whether attending a small school like North Central put her at a disadvantage in premedicine. “No, I’ve stayed toe-to-toe with anyone who went to Harvard or elsewhere,” says Beckham. “I got to do many things here … research with professors, teach as a lab assistant, present at national conferences and on campus, and in medicine you present every day.”

Chapman closed the event talking about his research and connection with Hammond, who was a fellow classmate in the doctoral program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Chapman leads the Ultracold Atomic Physics and Quantum Optics research group at Georgia Tech. “Quantum mechanics is a revolutionary view of the world,” he says. “It’s pretty exciting. Who knows what the future of science has in store!”

Chapman also spoke at the May 17 Inauguration ceremony representing higher education.