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SXU's EXPLORE STEM Program Hosts Alumni Night


Saint Xavier University's (SXU) EXPLORE STEM program recently hosted STEM Alumni Night, where undergraduate students, family members, staff and faculty gathered virtually to network with and learn from Saint Xavier alumni in different STEM career areas.

"These events are excellent resources for our students because they showcase the diverse amount of STEM careers that are available to them post-graduation. Students are able to see firsthand how the foundational skills learned at SXU have helped previous classes achieve their career goals and they can be confident that they are on the same path to success," said Marina Martinez '20, program director of NSF-HSI grant.

Alumni attendees ranged from medical school students or Ph.D. candidates to professionals working in their chosen fields, from the tech and mathematics sectors to the health and science fields, and some are even adjunct faculty at SXU. Alumni offered advice about the resources at SXU that helped them reach their goals and current students got the opportunity to network and engage in scholarly conversations with alumni while learning about their lives and achievements after graduating from SXU.

All alumni shared a love and appreciation for Saint Xavier and their STEM faculty, who offered them experiential learning opportunities and exposed them to real-life careers and student-faculty collaborative research, which prepared them for graduate school and their future careers. Many alumni expressed how they consistently use what they learned in their courses in current work.

Ahmad Alshair '18, who studied computer science while at SXU, started in the tech industry as a student. Alshair is currently pursuing an MBA at SXU and encourages current students to look for internships in their fields, especially those studying computer science, as the technology field is more critical than ever in a world that's become continually virtual.

"I've been working in the tech field since I was 17 and it's been an absolute boom for my overall career. I have been blessed to have great job security in technology and computer science, so it's a great field to enter," said Alshair. 

Rich Nowak ’12, a biology graduate, is a water treatment consultant who uses his background in chemistry and biology to enhance his expertise, which ensures regulatory compliance, safety, asset preservation and sustainability of water treatment.

"Water treatment is definitely an industry I'd recommend younger generations look into. There is a vast majority of different routes you can go into, from manufacturing to legionella studies. I advise students to spend time working on science writing, as I do a fair amount of technical writing in my day-to-day operations," said Nowak.   

Lisette Carrera '19 studied natural sciences while at Saint Xavier and began her work as a lab technician for the United States Drug Testing Laboratory, where she extracted and prepared specimens for the analysis of drugs in a variety of biological matrices. Currently, she works as a gross technician for Pinnacle Dermatology, where she works with biopsies including cysts, melanomas and lesions.

"Being in a lab setting is so rewarding. I advise all current students to make sure they spend time in the lab doing hands-on work with their professors. I wish I had spent more time in the lab doing research during my undergraduate studies, so make it a priority," said Carrera. "I also recommend making sure you take on leadership positions. My managers were impressed at how involved I was during my undergraduate career. Being involved in multiple areas shows you are well-rounded and a team player."

Mariah Ellis '15 studied biology and chemistry while at SXU, where she also worked as a laboratory assistant. Currently, she is an associate applications scientist at a food production company that works alongside farmers, producers, manufacturers, retailers, governments and other organizations. 

"Mark [Westerhoff, safety officer and lab coordinator at SXU] told me about the industry and recommended that I look into it, and I started working as a tech and then began working as a chemist. I wanted to be agile and innovative in the lab, and so now I work in research and development. Reach out to your network -- there are so many opportunities within the scientific industries. What you study may not be the route you take, and you may find something totally different, but there are many lucrative opportunities out there for you," said Ellis. 

Claudia Varela '17 graduated from Saint Xavier with a degree in chemistry and currently works as a chemist for a paint manufacturing plant, where she adjusts formulas to be manufacturable at her work site, which produces 40 million gallons of paint per year.

"It's important to learn about industry and business. During my time at SXU, I spent a lot of time learning how to do troubleshooting, problem-solving and other important techniques I use in the industry to this day," said Varela. "The only way you will gain this experience is to work with instrumentation, so spend a lot of time in the lab."

Saint Xavier is proud of its accomplished alumni and looks forward to watching them continue to learn, grow, succeed and serve as inspiration to the SXU community and as mentors for the students who work are working hard to follow in their footsteps.

"I am so grateful to those who participated, for their commitment to the University and for helping our students advance their education and career goals," said Bindhu Alappat, Ph.D., interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.