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USciences was the Catalyst for This Chemistry Major’s Career

By Steve Neumann

Published on December 16, 2019

Tori LugianoTori Lugiano Chem’19 seemed destined for a career in chemistry. For Christmas one year when she was little, she got a chemistry set from her mother, who would go on to buy CSI-type forensic science toy sets that Lugiano would spend hours doing at home. For Lugiano, the choice of a career always couched in the context of how it could benefit others.

“My family has always been either in the military or law enforcement, so they were always able to help people,” Lugiano says, “and I always wanted to work on the science side of it.”

That’s why she jumped at the chance to work as an analytical chemist in the Catalysts division of Johnson Matthey, a British specialty chemicals and sustainable technologies company, after graduating in May. Lugiano’s work helps recycle precious metals instead of mining them from the earth. Those metals are then used in medical applications.

But the road to Lugiano’s career in chemistry wasn’t easy. She had to pay her own way through college, working up to 50 hours a week at a senior citizen’s home to do it. As if that wasn’t hard enough, at the end of her freshman year Lugiano was diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety. But she had the presence of mind to reach out for help, though, and USciences was there for her. 

“I made the decision to stick with my education because I'm the kind of person who doesn't quit when things get rough,” Lugiano says. “My parents dropped out of college because they couldn't afford it, and I wanted to be different—I wanted to show that it was possible.” 

One of the biggest factors in Lugiano’s success at USciences was her advisor, Dr. Catherine Bentzley, chemistry professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

“Whenever I was having a bad day, she always found time to speak with me about anything that was on my mind,” she said. “She took an interest in how I was doing outside of school and always helped me get myself back on track whenever I was drifting away from my goals.”

Lugiano suggests that incoming students should set up a weekly meeting with professors so that you have time to speak to them, and warns them not to procrastinate on assignments that aren’t due for several weeks. “Getting a head start will ease your stress level,” she said.

Lugiano’s experience at USciences, and the support she received throughout her time there has motivated her to eventually go back and get a toxicology degree there, so she can work as a chemist in a toxicology lab.

“Overall my education was a tough experience,” Lugiano says, “but when you're done, you learn a lot about yourself as a person and as a professional.”

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