Leroy Nguyen – Alumnus Spotlight

Student Naval Flight Officer, US Navy

Hometown: Tupelo, MS
BS in Forensic Chemistry, minor in Biological Science (2019)


When and why did you decide to study forensic chemistry?
I decided early into senior year of high school. I was always fascinated with forensics and as one of the top accredited programs in the US, it just really made sense. Also the TV show Dexter was just ending, and come on. What a show, right?

What was a significant accomplishment while at UM?
One of our labs gave us a sample of some substance, and they gave us the semester to figure out what it was using the different techniques we would learn throughout the class, e.g. gas chromatography mass spectrometry, IR, etc. It was a super cool look into a practical use case.

Please tell us about your career path since graduation
I considered going to medical school, but I decided to take a huge left turn and commissioned as an officer in the Navy. I went through OCS, or Officer Candidate School, and am currently in Intermediate Flight Officer Training. I am still learning how to do my job. It is quite an in-depth process, and I do not even know the full undertakings of my future position. Each aircraft is different, and the Flight Officers, or FOs, will all do a different job depending on the aircraft and even the seat within the aircraft. There is a lot of on the job training, even after the 2-3+ years of training we go through. Especially in aviation, things are always changing, and adaptability is a huge asset in this field.

What is the value of studying foresnic chemistry in today’s world?
Studying forensic chemistry has really enabled me to, for lack of a more verbose description, solve problems. I find that even when things are thrown at me unexpectedly and quickly, my ability to compartmentalize and think logically (and sometimes illogically) has enabled a flexibility that seems to be troubling many others. I would be remiss not to attribute that to my prior education, specifically, my forensic chemistry experience – going from burning stuff in a lab and canceling out moles to get grams in the numerator to tracking submarines traveling miles underwater from 20,000 feet in the air or navigating fighter jets flying at over 500 knots to drop ordinances within inches and seconds of the target.

Honestly, it is difficult to explain. Studying this field has rewired my brain in a way that only experience can explain. It is probably happening to you. You might not notice it immediately, or even soon. But you will. When you find that you are excelling where others are struggling, you will know what I mean. I wish students in this program all the best. It is definitely not easy, but it is most certainly rewarding.