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Exploring life at his own pace reaped dividends for UWGB senior Reed Heintzkill

It is safe to say that Reed Heintzkill lived a full life before he became a student at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. And, it appears he has made the most out of every single moment, since.

Heintzkill will receive the prestigious Paul and Thea Sager Scholarship for excellence in scientific writing at the 27th annual Cofrin Student Symposium, from 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 1 in the Christie Theatre, UWGB.

The chemistry major will graduate in May 2016 with honors, and with the utmost respect of hundreds of campus community members he has come in contact with at UWGB.

Reed Heintzkill Chemistry Major, May 2016

Reed Heintzkill
Chemistry Major, May 2016
Green Bay, Wis.

His list of involvement at UWGB is extensive: an active member of the Segregated University Fee Allocation Committee (serving as member, vice chair, and chair in past years), current member of Student Senate; summers spent with the student group Enactus and Economics Prof. John Stoll, performing interviews for the American Federation of Counseling Services’ annual Ethics in Business Awards; and budgeting assistance to a number of student organizations and charitable groups including PEAC, Campus Kitchens, Round River Alliance and Healthy Fork.

He volunteered to work with UWGB students in discussion sessions of Chemistry 1 and 2; and similarly at NWTC for two semesters — leading two or three one-hour blocks of 20 to 30 students each week through their Chemistry discussion sessions. For his efforts he was honored wit the University Leadership Award in Spring of 2015.

He received the award for his laboratory report, “Characterization of poly(3-hexylthiophene)(P3HT) through UV-Vis absorbance and experimental HOMO/LUMO energy level determination” — a final requirement for Asst. Prof. Jeremy Intemann’s Instrumental Analysis course. The assignment allowed Heintzkill to hone his skills in scientific writing while gaining a better understanding of the electronic properties of polymers used in organic photovoltaic cells. He hopes to continue his research on organic photovoltaics in graduate school at UW-Milwaukee next year.

Heintzkill explains his research in layman’s terms…

“We are synthesizing a small molecule that Prof. Intemann has proposed may have desirable qualities for use in photovoltaic cells (solar cells). While this particular molecule has never been synthesized before, Dr. Intemann has made similar molecules, with slight variation on some of the functional groups attached to the main body of the molecule.  The paper I wrote for the scholarship was for another material altogether, a polymer called P3HT, which is widely known and studied, but our current research is very closely related to the subjects covered in my lab report.

“This semester, I’m learning the chemical synthesis technique to create the molecule. At grad school, I hope to learn how to create the actual solar cells out of whatever material is being studied. Ideally, it would be great if I can continue working with Dr. Intemann, teaming up to create and test these new materials!”

His parents, Megan and Mark Heintzkill, say his curiosity and thirst for knowledge has been apparent from the beginning.

“He always saw himself as part of the adult world… incredibly independent, and entrepreneurial, and needed to dance to his own drummer,” said his mother, Megan Heintzkill. “He is self-taught in almost everything he does, from computer languages and networking to QuickBooks accounting and cooking. He went to work in Los Angeles without a high school diploma and was quite successful, and then was hired at 21 to run an accounting branch in the Virgin Islands.”

When the recession hit in 2008, the St. Thomas office shut down, and at 27 years old, he gave continuing education a second thought.

“I’d always had an inquisitive mind but never felt college was necessary until I hit the ceiling of what a smart but woefully uneducated lad could do,” Reed said.

He moved back to his family (in Green Bay) completed his GED and general education requirements at NWTC and transferred to UWGB.

UWGB gave me an opportunity that had previously passed me by and allowed me to get on track to utilize my potential,” says Reed. “So we’ve got the story of someone who had thought that school was a foregone option, who ended up succeeding — there’s a lesson that it’s never too late to chase your dreams. Something that’s occurred to me on more than one occasion has been how appropriate the UWGB setting is for me as opposed to a larger state school…I think at a bigger school I would have been lost in the shuffle. With the small class sizes here, I’m able to create good relationships with instructors who have been very willing to give me the help I need to succeed.

An added bonus, his parents are relieved, and quite proud.

“His experience at UWGB has been incredible,” said Megan. “He has shown interest in student government and in teaching, in addition to his studies in chemistry and environmental science.  His natural curiosity is restored, alive and well in an academic community that admires it. He is such a productive person on so many levels and the interest his professors have shown in him, and the admiration, has gone a long way to rebuilding the incredible quest for knowledge that drove him as a child.  To see this restored, to see our son growing and reaching for the goals we know he is interested in and able to achieve, is such a godsend.”

In a previous scholarship ceremony, Megan unsuccessfully fought back tears… “I guess the principle reason that I was so emotional at the awards ceremony is summed up by saying that Mark and I have always known that Reed had incredible potential but we went through a period of time where we thought that the opportunity for him to realize that potential might be lost.  To have him find his path to a bright future is such an enormous relief and an incredible gift… it’s a blessing and a joy I just cannot describe…”

Megan said that the individuals Reed encountered at UWGB changed his life.

“They made him better and impacted his decision-making in such a positive way,” she said. “…it’s the amazing individuals who have helped him and impressed him with their kindness, their interest, and their genuine desire for his success. Those individuals are the ones who caused my emotional response at the awards ceremony… Their encouragement and interest, their kind words about Reed, and to him, over these years, have made all the difference in the world.”

Reed has a more casual perspective on this path. “While my folks were never really unsettled by my choices (I wasn’t completely off the deep-end, just exploring life in my own way and pace), I know they were relieved when I decided to do the school route.”

The public is invited to attend the 27th annual Cofrin Student Symposium on Tuesday, March 1. Four students will present their research as well. More on the Symposium is available on the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity website.