Brett Pettijohn of Raphine in Rockbridge County spent ten weeks last summer ensconced in a process that he thoroughly enjoyed: Conducting tests on samples in a chemistry lab at Old Dominion University in Norfolk.
The 2020 Dabney S. Lancaster Community College graduate was selected for an internship with the Old Dominion University Research Experience for Undergraduates (ODU REU). His DSLCC Biology instructor and Head of the Science Department, Lee Anne Bowling-Angle, learned about the internship. “She brought it to my attention,” recalls Pettijohn. “She really encouraged me and was instrumental in getting me through the application process.”
“It was an amazing project,” says Pettijohn, who worked with a group that was conducting tests to determine how oil biodegrades in salt water as it settles and how it affects other organisms.
The research was conducted in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and Pettijohn said he found the work fascinating. The samples they tested came from the University of Texas. “They basically created multiple simulated oil spills, using water from the Gulf of Mexico, and using oil from the same oil well.”
The REU program focuses on climate change and sea level rise in the coastal metropolitan environment and is sponsored by the National Science Foundation Ocean Science Division.
A couple of months ago, all of that lab experience landed Pettijohn a job at Balchem in Alleghany County, where he tests animal nutrition products, again in a chemistry lab. He had considered continuing his education and eventually earning a bachelor’s degree, but when the job offer came, he decided to take it. It’s interesting work, he says.
He credits not only the ODU internship, but also his educational background at DSLCC, for giving him the right credentials. He earned an Associate Degree in Science this year, as well as a Certificate in General Education. While a student at DSLCC, he was the recipient of the Linda Rose Memorial Scholarship through the DSLCC Educational Foundation.
Pettijohn, 36, is a 2002 Rockbridge County High School graduate, and the father of a 16-year-old daughter, Alyssa. He is also a veteran, having served a tour in Afghanistan. He was in the Marine Corps from 2008-12.
Pettijohn says he was very grateful for the opportunity to attend ODU last year and experience life on that college’s campus.
For more information about DSLCC’s Science program, please contact Bowling-Angle at (540) 863-2871 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the College’s website at www.dslcc.edu.
Enrollment for the fall term is open and classes begin August 24, 2020.