Global Marketing Manager
Chemistry Major, Biochemistry Minor
Aaron Thornton '06, having received his Ph.D. in chemistry from
Emory University, is living in New Jersey while working as the global
marketing manager of BASF Corporation, one of the largest chemical companies in the world. He works in their Catalyst Division converting biorenewable materials, like corn and agricultural wastes, into fuels and chemicals.
How has your Knox experience made an impact on your career?
Graduating from Knox prepared me for my professional career in many ways. The pace and rigor that is expected from students at Knox truly gave me a leg-up on my colleagues while in graduate school at Emory University. While the actual technical knowledge that I gained was quite similar, my time management skills and work ethic were superior to those of my classmates. Additionally, because so much emphasis was placed on writing and communication skills in a liberal arts setting like Knox, I feel that I was definitely better prepared in this area when compared to my colleagues.
How did your Knox experience affect the course of your life?
My time at Knox has affected both my personal and professional life. From a personal perspective it not only introduced me to lifelong friends, but it also introduced me to my wife. We met and started dating while at Knox, and as they say, the rest is history. From a professional standpoint, at Knox I majored chemistry, but this was only part of my education. Because of the diversity of coursework that was necessary at Knox, I was able to gain experience in many other fields. While the ramifications of this were not immediately apparent to me, I can see now that this has really shaped the current and future direction of my career. My experience at Knox gave me an appreciation for many different fields of study and taught me to always be open to new opportunities. At that time I had no interest in pursuing a career in business, but now, because of my willingness to be open to new opportunities, I have a career that mixes both chemistry and business.
Why did you choose Knox?
I visited a variety of schools when trying to determine the best place for me. I honestly did not know a lot about Knox, but when I visited for a summer open house I fell in love! I was given personal attention from day one, and I specifically remember a biology professor giving me a personal tour through the Science-Mathematics Center because I was unable to attend the group tour. This really stuck with me, so when I was accepted I immediately scheduled an overnight visit to get a feel for the campus when students are around. I visited the Friday before the annual Knox-Monmouth football game and had an amazing time while on campus! I again received personal attention from the moment I stepped on campus and had a great time meeting and interacting with my host and other students. After that it was an easy decision for me to make!
Describe a memorable experience and the impact it had on you.
From the summer after my junior year to the end of my senior year I pursued Honors research with Dr. Diana Cermak. I only had average grades but had formed a great relationship with Diana while working in her Organic Chemistry lab section. She knew that success in chemistry is determined by a lot more than just coursework and tests, and she gave an opportunity to develop my research skills by taking on a more in-depth project. This research experience really shaped who I was as a student when I graduated from Knox. I firmly believe that this experience not only got me into a good graduate program, but also allowed me to excel while there.
Any advice would you give to high school students undertaking their college search?
Rankings and statistics are only so important when looking for the right college; really it all comes down to where you can thrive. Big schools are not for everyone, and neither are small schools like Knox. Really try to pay attention to how you feel when visiting a school, and try to determine if it is a good fit for you. And relax...it's just college!