While David Bettinardi was accepted to all of the four-year institutions to which he applied, he knew College of DuPage was the best option.
Selecting a career in science was not a given when he was growing up. Bettinardi attended a private elementary school that emphasized a specific religious stance. When he began to see science in a new light, he also used this newfound information for his own personal journey.
“A fantastic science teacher stoked my curiosity in science and from then on, I learned to trust my intuition,” he said. “I learned to view the world as something that is ascertainable instead of unavailingly mysterious and I learned to have courage in pursuing my curiosity. So, in a way, the ethos of science helped inform how I approached my discovery and acceptance of myself as a gay person many years later.”
While at COD, Bettinardi participated in a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded summer internship with The McCrone Group, a laboratory specializing in the use of microanalysis to solve difficult materials and particle identification problems.
“Coming from a working-class family, I struggled early in my academic career to identify and locate the resources I needed to succeed in job applications and interviews in a scientific field,” he said. “The NSF-funded internship program I attended, nominated by my COD chemistry professor Richard Jarman, helped me with the foothold I needed to gain experience and build confidence in the field.
Solving applied engineering problems is exciting, meaningful and greatly satisfies my analytical mindset
“My role as an intern was to help McCrone develop methods to characterize pollen specimens using polarized light microscopy to add to their particle database. Spending time at a local analytical laboratory was an enormously valuable experience. I had the opportunity to assist in teaching microscopy courses for forensic trace-evidence particles characterization to help law enforcement accurately identify things like hair, fibers, paint and glass.”
After earning his Associate in Science degree and graduating with honors, Bettinardi transferred to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in cell/cellular and molecular biology. He later earned a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from Oregon State University, where he served as fellow of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Bettinardi currently works on projects related to medical radioisotope production and advanced nuclear reactor fuels design at Argonne National Laboratory, where he is a member of the Radiochemistry group in the Chemical and Fuel Cycle Technologies Division.
“Solving applied engineering problems is exciting, meaningful and greatly satisfies my analytical mindset,” he said. “But in the long term, I thrive on knowing that I’m a part of something bigger that is actively working to improve the world.”
As for COD, Bettinardi found more than an affordable option for higher education. He enjoyed experiences that prepared him for future success.
“Dr. Richard Jarman, my College of DuPage chemistry professor, gave me a fantastic education and helped me build connections in my field.”