Kristen Malloy – Alumna Spotlight

Kristen MalloyGraduate Student in Food Science, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Hometown: Willowbrook, IL
BS in Forensic Chemistry (2020)


When and why did you decide to major in forensic chemistry?
When I was a senior in high school starting to think about where I wanted to go to college and what I wanted to study, I felt very overwhelmed by all of the different possibilities. I researched careers, universities, and majors for hours a day. As I searched, I constantly found myself coming back to chemistry. My first experience with a chemistry course was my sophomore year in high school. I found myself really drawn to the material and truly felt like everything I had learned in a science course up until that point could be explained using the principles of chemistry. With every topic I learned, I found myself getting more and more immersed in the subject. My junior year, I knew I wanted to continue learning about this topic, so I enrolled in honors chemistry. I also ended up signing up for a forensics class as an elective, mostly just because it sounded fun. Those two courses ended up being my favorites for the year. So, as I was searching for where I wanted to go to college and finally settled on studying chemistry, I stumbled upon the Forensic Chemistry program offered at the University of Mississippi. I thought back to how much I enjoyed my forensics and chemistry courses and almost couldn’t believe that I found a major that combined by two favorite subjects. It was in that moment that my mind was finally made up and I knew exactly what I should study and where I should apply.

What were some significant accomplishments or favorite memories from your time at UM?
My most significant accomplishment at UM would be receiving the American Chemical Society Analytical Chemistry Division Award my junior year. When I started studying Forensic Chemistry, I had no idea what analytical chemistry was. Even as I started taking the course during my fall semester of Junior year, I was clueless. I had never heard of the big, expensive, fancy analytical instruments we talked about in class. It was daunting at first, but I really started to enjoy the course over time. I found it fascinating to learn about all things that could be accomplished with analytical chemistry, and exactly how the instruments work in great detail. As I got to work with the instruments during the lab portion of the class and while conducting research for my thesis, I knew that this is something I want to do for the rest of my life. After completing two analytical chemistry courses, I was honored to receive the American Chemical Society Analytical Chemistry Division Award. Upon receiving this award, I felt validated in my knowledge of the topic, and my desire to pursue a career in analytical chemistry became intensified. 

Please describe your educational/career path since graduation.
After graduating from UM, I worked as a laboratory technician for a water treatment company where I analyzed metal samples for corrosion. As time at this job passed, I became less passionate about the work I was doing. It was very routine and did not make me feel fulfilled. I knew that this job was not for me and that I would like to pursue a career that was more based on analytical chemistry and also allowed room for creativity.  This desire pushed me to begin job searching again. It was during my search for a creative, analytical career that I discovered food science, and more specifically, flavor chemistry. As I continued my search about flavor chemistry, I discovered the research being conducted on this subject by Dr. Keith Cadwallader at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Reading about the research being conducted by his laboratory group inspired me to apply for graduate school to pursue a Masters of Science in Food Science. I was accepted into UIUC and into Dr. Cadwallader’s research lab starting in the Fall of 2022 to study Food Science with a concentration in Flavor Chemistry. I am thrilled to be studying analytical chemistry once again, and I am grateful for my time at UM where I discovered my passion for this topic.