Kristina Matvey title

For as long as she can recall Kristina Matvey '17 has been interested in science but how she planned to apply that interest has changed

“There was a time when I thought I wanted to be a pharmacist, but I changed my mind,” she recalls. “I always found other interests that sparked me to follow science.”

She came to Carlow as a transfer student intent on majoring in biology and following the autopsy certification track. She soon added chemistry as a second major and broadened her interests.

“The chemistry faculty make you think outside the box to find what you want to do,” she said. 

Thinking outside the box meant applying for a chemistry internship with Naval Nuclear Laboratory, a division of Bechtel BPMI.

“I told everyone that I wasn’t going to get this internship, but I did,” Matvey said. “Carlow prepares you for the workforce. I didn’t realize how much of my degree I would use (during her internship). It was all physical chemistry as well as a little bit of biology.”

The summer internship led to a job offer with Naval Nuclear Laboratory. She now works as a compliance engineer at its Bettis Laboratory in West Mifflin, Pa., ensuring that the safety standards are followed.

“I work with technicians and other engineers who handle hazardous materials to ensure that both procedures and safety protocols are followed,” said Matvey, adding that most of her work involves chemistry, but she has to apply biology as well. “The biology is used to understand the effects that radiation has on the body and the environment.” 

Naval Nuclear Laboratories fulfills contracts for the United States Department of Defense, as well as other government agencies. The work often results in construction of nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. Matvey witnessed firsthand a finished product of the company’s work on St. Patrick’s Day when the U.S.S. Colorado, a nuclear sub, was formally commissioned in Groton, Conn.

“Not a lot of females choose to work in the nuclear sector, but it’s really cool,” she said, adding that she is comfortable being in the minority. “I like to prove everyone wrong.”

Matvey said she is grateful to a woman in her division for taking her under her wing and mentoring her. 

“At first, I wasn’t sure how to approach people, but she told me to be sure to take my seat at the table and speak up, because you never know who might be watching,” she said.

One of the people who is always watching her is the woman to whom Matvey gives the most credit for her interest in science: her mother, Deborah, who earned her master of science in nursing. They walked at Commencement together.

“She sparked my interest in science since the time I was in elementary school,” Matvey said. “She encouraged me to go for it. You don’t know what opportunities might be out there until you try.” 

By Andrew Wilson