Two UB best friends win Chemical and Biological Engineering award
Not every freshman meets his or her best friend on the first day of college. And if they do, it’s rare to spend the following four years going to OneRepublic concerts and pushing each other toward a chemical engineering degree.
For Lindsey Kehl and Steve Vitello, it all started their freshman year in an EAS 140 class. They introduced themselves to each other and were enthralled with the fact they had the same exact schedules. They’ve been inseparable ever since.
Kehl and Vitello are senior chemical engineering majors and winners of the Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) Academic Excellence Award. UB’s Department of CBE placed in the top 10 nationally in several key research measures, according to its website. Kehl and Vitello have managed to prove their candidacy by excelling in the chemical engineering department and landing jobs in the field fresh out of college.
“We’re definitely the most outspoken out of the chemical engineers here,” Vitello said.
Although they both wound up walking the same path at UB, they took different approaches when choosing their major.
“During my junior year of high school, I knew I wanted to follow after my dad because he’s a chemical engineer,” Kehl said.
She was always interested in math and science but seeing him work firsthand made her realize a chemical engineering major was a good choice. Kehl is now the vice president of American Institute of Chemical Engineers at UB.
Vitello, on the other hand, chose chemical engineering when he was filling out his college applications.
“I loved physics and didn’t know enough about chemistry so I just chose it so I can learn more,” Vitello said.
Ever since the two met, they’ve spent long nights studying in Lockwood Library and partnered together in team projects. They saw their hard work pay off when shopping for Hawaiian shirts and other spring break attire for an epic Cancun spring break trip.
Kehl and Vitello were at Kohl’s department store when they both received the email saying they won the CBE award.
“First I got an email and was like ‘Hey, I won an award,’ then she checked her phone and was like ‘Hey, me too,’” Vitello said.
Kehl and Vitello were two of the five winners of this year’s award. Each winner received a $200 award and their name on a plaque.
But $200 doesn’t compare to what they’ll be making once they leave UB. With just a couple more weeks until graduation, they are already on their way to two successful jobs.
Kehl has had internships at Praxair and FMC Corporation that prepared her for life after UB. Kehl started applying for jobs in September. By December she made the decision to work at UOP, a petroleum industry company in Chicago. She’s starting off with a $75,000 salary and will travel the world for three years setting up oil refineries.
“I’m doing something completely different and it doesn’t sound as glamorous as her job,” Vitello said.
Vitello will be a sales engineer for Keyence in Cleveland selling 3D scanning microscopes. He had two internships with IsleChem and Niacet, both companies in the chemical engineering industry. But he realized he wanted to go into sales so he could travel and speak with people.
Vitello has a base salary of $53,000 with a commission and bonus structure but by his third year, he should be making six figures, he said.
Kayleigh Miller, a senior biomedical engineering major and Kehl and Vitello’s best friend, said the fact they have jobs after college shows they did something right in their past four years.
“They are both very hardworking and strive to do well in school,” Miller said. “I think they will do well in their career in the real world.”
Both Vitello and Kehl stressed school isn’t everything and students need to take the time to have a social life.
Organic chemistry and cell biology were some of the highlights of Vitello’s four years but some of the best times were spent with his best friend Kehl.
Camping at Allegany State Park, spring break in Cancun, Oozefest, OneRepublic concerts and Drake concerts at Darien Lake highlighted Kehl and Vitello’s college years.
“But some of those memories can’t be remembered,” Vitello said.
Between soccer, basketball, parties and making frequent trips to Wegmans, they still manage to find time to get everything done.
“I take it day-by-day but [Vitello] plans his entire week out on Sundays,” Kehl said.
Although Kehl and Vitello are going their separate ways, their paths don’t stray far from each other. While Kehl is living in Chicago, Vitello will be in the windy city for a 10-week training.
Kehl and Vitello plan on living close to each other in the future.
“My headquarters is also in Chicago so we’ll definitely be meeting up for dinner,” Vitello said.
Kehl said she’s had the best four years of her life at UB and can’t believe it’s over. Vitello agreed.
From looking in on the outside, Miller said Kehl and Vitello are two of her favorite people.
“Everyone that meets [Kehl] loves her, she is very outgoing and friendly,” Miller said. “[Vitello] is the most down to earth and genuine person I know and he is very easy going and goofy most of the time but when it comes to schoolwork, he’s hardworking and organized.”
Vitello’s parting words to people pushing through to the finale is to learn how to have a mind, body and soul balance.
“And you definitely need a whacky sidekick,” he said.
Gabriela Julia is the senior features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org