Better Security Through Chemistry
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is only three years old, but its impact on lives has been tremendous. For Robert E. Cook Honors College junior Kaycie Butler, it allowed her to follow a Biochemistry dream.
Butler earned the Department of Homeland Security Scholarship, awarded to college juniors and graduate students studying math, engineering, or science. According to the scholarship website, “The program is designed to encourage and support students in their effort to develop a scientific foundation and pursue technological breakthroughs resulting in improved homeland security.”
“I found the scholarship by searching on Fastweb,” Butler explained. “[It] actually does work!”
The DHS Scholarship offers students a one-year scholarship/internship opportunity through the department. Renewable for a second year, it includes full payment of tuition and other mandatory fees, as well as a $1,000-per-month stipend to be used for living expenses.
“[The application] included essays about how your major related to homeland security and how your future job interests would contribute to the goals of the DHS,” Butler said. In her essays, she expanded on specific examples “about how chemistry could be used to protect the country…such as predicting possible chemical weapons or assisting the country in recovery from a chemical attack.”
Though what she will be doing during the ten-week internship that will follow Spring semester is still not definite, Butler said her “major interest is organic chemistry, and that is what I would like to stick with.”
During her semesters at IUP, Butler is often busy doing organic chemistry research with Carl LeBlond, an IUP Chemistry professor. “I am working [with Dr. LeBlond] on developing a new, novel synthesis method involving pyruvic acid,” Butler explained. “It is a carbodiimide coupling that has not been done before.”
“Kaycie’s undergraduate research is one example of the outstanding educational experience IUP offers,” according to Rick Kutz, assistant director of the Robert E. Cook Honors College. “As an undergraduate, Kaycie has been taught by faculty members, not by graduate students. IUP’s focus on undergraduate education helped foster her research experience, and that is an opportunity she wouldn’t have at other universities.”
Butler is also the western captain of the IUP Equestrian Team and a member of the American Chemical Society and Alpha Chi Sigma—the professional chemistry fraternity. The Greensburg, Pa., native finds additional time to volunteer with the American Red Cross.
“Within the Honors College,” Kutz said, “we try to encourage every single student to seek out and take advantage of the opportunities IUP offers to them. Kaycie’s graduate school opportunities will be exponentially increased as a result of her research with Dr. LeBlond. That same result is available to students from any major who take advantage of the opportunities available to them.”
Butler attended an orientation in Washington, D.C., last November with the select group of award recipients from around the nation.
At Home in Hollywood
“Basically, I produce commercials.”
Four words are all IUP and Robert E. Cook Honors College alumnus Angelo Mazzamuto needs to sum up his life in Hollywood.
“In my final semester at IUP, I had taken a class in advertising…to fulfill one of my major electives. I learned the ins and outs of advertising and was intrigued by the many areas in which I could see myself working, which was great, since at this point I still had no idea what I was planning to do upon graduation.”
Right: Tony Ferek ’95, M’98 and his wife, Cindy, along with six others (most—like Tony—Washington, D.C., firefighters) began pedaling in San Francisco on August 1, 2006. By 9:48 a.m. on September 11, they were nearing their destination of the Pentagon, to which Tony and others had rushed five years earlier in response to the terrorist attack. Sleeping mostly in firehouses, they bicycled through California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, and Virginia. As Tony put it, “343 firefighters lost in one day is a devastating loss and worthy of honor. Our focus on remembering was not on death but on the feeling of national unity that came as a result.”
The five-year member of the Robert E. Cook Honors College found that producing sort of “fell into my lap with a little help from my father.”
Dedicated to the notion of “making it in Hollywood,” the 2003 IUP graduate left his home in Carlisle, Pa., a few months after graduation for a two-and-a-half-day cross-country trip to California. “I wish I could say that it’s been a bumpy ride or that I lived out of my car for three months, but luckily I’ve been pretty fortunate in my journey to becoming a producer,” Mazzamuto explained. “I had no job, no place to call my own, and a Yukon filled with everything I owned stuffed into nooks and crannies.”
Mazzamuto was close to his goal when he looked into a trial run as an intern at TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles. But there was a catch. “It was company policy to hire only students as interns, and, well, a student I was not.” He made an end run around the policy: he signed up for a class with UCLA Extension and two weeks later was interning with TBWA.
“I moved up the department very fast,” he said. “I was good enough, smart enough, and [darn] it, people liked me!” It generally takes four years to become a broadcast producer at the company; Mazzamuto made it in just over two.
TBWA\Chiat\Day Los Angeles has a large variety of clients, and Mazzamuto has worked on many of their accounts. “The more prominent projects have been Nissan, Infiniti, and PlayStation.” He has also worked with colleagues to develop campaigns for LeapFrog and Pedigree.
For most, one of the perks of making a living in southern California would be meeting celebrities. But for Mazzamuto, encounters with the Hollywood elite aren’t too thrilling. “If I meet somebody, and they’re cool and polite, I’m glad to meet them. Otherwise, I couldn’t care less.”
Mazzamuto’s principal piece of advice to anyone interested in the world of producing: networking. “It’s really important to meet as many people as possible,” he said. “One’s ability to deal with a spectrum of personalities will [also] help tremendously in the advertising industry. Be ambitious when planning your career path, but don’t let your ego get the best of you.
“I loved the ride,” Mazzamuto said of his journey into producing. “Moving to Los Angeles was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I’ve gained respect for myself to be independent and keep reaching for better and better opportunities.”