Scholar Highlight: Kyle Chesney

By Michael Chiang

Sophomore, Biochemistry Major

Kyle Chesney was the picture of mediocrity in high school. Earning the frustration of his teachers and an infamous reputation for being a troublemaker, some would say that his acceptance into university was nothing short of a miracle. Now in his junior year, that same lazy kid has grown in to an academically focused student, endowed with achievements such as the Laitinen scholar for chemistry and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute scholar for undergraduate research

Kyle Chesney - Prism September

Enter freshman year: Kyle has just decided to pursue a double major in psychology and English, a far cry from his current chemistry major and physics and math double minor. During the first of his dreaded General Education classes, “Plants, Gardens and You,” he would discover his first taste of chemistry in the form of a simple organic molecule: phenylacetaldehyde. Normally responsible for the euphoric sensation present after eating chocolate, phenylacetaldehyde would hold a different effect for Kyle as it forever shifted his passion from the humanities to an endless adventure of scientific inquiry. Unfortunately, his first year would do little to improve his academic record as he finished with a subpar 2.92. Notably, this future recipient of accolades received a B- in General Chemistry I. Despite initial shortcomings, Kyle did not give in and continued to feed his curiosity, declaring a chemistry major after becoming even more interested, and acing General Chemistry II.

Thus, like any cliché romance, Kyle had already fallen head over heals for chemistry and nothing, not even an abysmal first impression with the subject, could deter him. Taking any opportunity, he joined the Chemistry Club in his sophomore year, becoming its first fundraising chair, and rising to the position of president in the following year. It was at one of these meetings, that Kyle would meet his current research mentor, Dr. Castellano, with whom he now serves as an undergraduate researcher, working on improving organic (carbon-based) electronics as an alternative to traditional metal and silicon analogs.

When he leaves his cave in Sisler Hall, Kyle enjoys swimming, rock-climbing, and surrounding himself with nature. In fact, he hopes to be a TRiP leader, while juggling his rigorous coursework, leadership responsibilities, and research. Kyle also aims to fund his education by pursuing the Goldwater scholarship, an exceptionally intense and prestigious national scholarship that recognizes future budding mathematicians, scientists, and engineers. In addition to this, Kyle intends to broaden his research experience by actively pursuing a summer REU (research experience for undergraduates), in the lab of one of his potential graduate advisors. Kyle’s future aspiration is to attend Northwestern University to pursue a PhD in physical organic chemistry of photovoltaic arrays, and later to become a prominent researcher in his field.

Despite all of his success, Kyle maintains, “He is an idiot turned erudite; anyone is capable – all it takes is effort.” Experience has only caused him to realize the depth to which his understanding is limited. Nevertheless, as his fellow colleague and Enhanced Organic T.A., I believe his affinity for chemistry borders that of a savant. Despite his initial shortcomings, Kyle’s academic career demonstrates that success does not run along a fixed timeline; passion is inevitably tied to success. To sum it up in his words, “Indulge your curiosity, and do not be afraid to challenge yourself. Nobody ever accomplished anything without testing their limits.”

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