Posted on Friday, September 11, 2020
Stephanie Homitz ’17
For Stephanie Homitz ’17, the top-notch research and lab skills she developed as a student at Westminster College prepared her well for her job as a chemist for the Air Force Technical Applications Center at the Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. Read on to learn more about Stephanie and her career.
Tell us a little about your job with the Air Force Technical Applications Center at the Patrick Air Force Base in Florida.
I am a chemist in the radiochemistry lab for the Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC), which, as a whole, monitors nuclear treaties around the world. I received this job as a developmental chemist, which is a plan to promote me three times every 6-12 months, as long as I am performing at that level. As a chemist, I digest environmental samples and perform elemental purifications. On a daily basis I use harsh acids such as concentrated perchloric, hydrofluoric, sulfuric and fuming nitric for a complete digestion of the samples. The digestions can take up to three days, and the purification procedure can take about three days as well. I also help out with the inductively coupled plasma— optical emission spectrometry (ICP-OES) and mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) instruments by analyzing samples and reviewing data.
You were recently named “Civilian of the Year.” Tell us about that honor.
I received the 2018 Category-I Civilian of the Year for the 709 Support Analysis Group (SAG), which is the group I work in. Category-I is the pay grade. I received this award by winning a quarterly award in 2018, which I won by being nominated by my direct supervisor for my work in the lab. Our squadron (the lab) nominates people for each category, from there they compete at the group (709 SAG). If you win at the group, you continue on to the wing (AFTAC). I won at the wing level for the quarterly award, and was nominated for the wing level for the year by winning at the group level.
Which aspects of your Westminster education do you feel prepared you well for your career?
The independent research that led to my senior capstone was what prepared me the most for my career. The research I did at Westminster required a lot of attention to detail, which I use daily. Being able to work closely with my advisor prepared me to be able to work with the senior chemist here and allowed me to feel more comfortable working with people that had to teach me the processes and chemistry. My research also consisted of doing digestions and ICP, which I do here at work now. The similarities to my research and current job and the use of laser-induced bready spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument made me stand out against other applicants and helped me receive this position at AFTAC. The presentations we did in senior seminar and poster presentations throughout my career at Westminster prepared me for the mission briefs I have to present to visitors of the lab.