Greg Illy is one of the first graduates of the recently revived Professional Science Master’s (PSM) program.
Instead of a traditional thesis, he opted to take science and business courses, including a large internship.
It almost didn’t happen this way.
“I started as a pre-med student but found a research adviser, Dr. Katye Fichter, who really pushed me to become a better scientist and piqued my interest in research in chemistry,” Illy said.
The rest is history.
Illy, who is from St. Charles, Missouri, completed his internship hours at the Missouri Highway Patrol lab.
“I took a chance on something I knew very little about, the crime lab, and it has been my greatest experience while finishing my bachelor’s and master’s degrees,” Illy said.
About Illy’s experience
Illy started off small. He performed quality control checks on instruments and most of the quality control protocols for drug and toxicology labs.
Then, his supervisors taught him how to use their equipment, like a gas chromatography-mass spectrometer (GC/MS), compare drug samples and make quantitative drug standards.
“It is extremely rare to find a position that allows for a student still completing their degree to take apart, maintain and rebuild an instrument worth hundreds of thousands of dollars like the GC/MS,” Illy said.
He was also able to use the business part of his degree doing office work.
After he build trust with the lab, he worked on a new extraction method to analyze drugs in blood and urine. This new method will essentially combine five drug tests into one.
“I was given the freedom to work on such an enormous project which will be used across the state for years to come,” Illy said.
Illy emphasizes that the lab isn’t all about the science; it’s about people, too.
“During my time at the lab, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the most wonderful people who have been extremely supportive and really put in the time to mentor me into becoming the scientist that I am today,” Illy said.
“While the hands-on experience in the lab has been extremely valuable, nothing can compare to the people I’ve met and lessons I’ve learned along the way,” Illy added.