Lab work convinced Alex Bottorff that chemistry is his calling.

Finding Purpose at New College

Visit New College of Florida and you might find Alex Bottorff in any number of places.

He might be in the student center, watching his beloved St. Louis Blues playing hockey on television. He might be playing “court soccer,” a New College twist on the sport. Or he might be in a lounge with the 20-member Bible Club, a group for Christian students that he helps run.

Most likely, though, you’d find him in a chemistry lab. Alex, though only in his second year, is tackling rigorous coursework and landing advanced research opportunities in outside laboratories.

While in high school in Missouri, he worked in labs at the University of Missouri, learning about folding the DNA molecule and creating a catalyst to break down a molecule. Last winter, he worked in a Florida State University lab, examining ways to bond the lanthanide cerium with large organic molecules.

While he has dabbled in other sciences, the lab work convinced him that chemistry is his calling. “I found it really interesting,” he said. “It had a certain ebb and flow to it that a lot of the other sciences didn’t.”

The freedom to concentrate in a chosen field and to do intensive research projects is the reason Alex chose to attend New College of Florida. He’s looking ahead to his next annual independent study project, and to New College’s famed senior thesis.

“The ISP and thesis project were what mainly attracted me to New College,” he said. “It allows me to really delve into a certain type of research that I wouldn’t normally get to until later on, in graduate school. It lets me get much more focused on education and research and experience.”

Alex isn’t yet sure where his studies will take him, but he knows he’s on the right path. “I’m a religious scientist, so I’m not allowed to believe in coincidence,” he said, laughing. “There’s definitely a purpose as to why I’m here. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m working on it.”