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Ava Lesko (C’20)

Formulation Chemist, Spectrum Brands

Ava was academically driven in high school and envisioned going to a larger engineering school. Looking back, she’s grateful she chose Principia College. After a year of engineering classes, Ava realized she was drawn to chemistry, so she switched her major—something she didn’t feel she could have done at an engineering school.

“A really unique thing about Principia is that you aren’t boxed into what you think you are or what you think you’re going to do,” says Ava.

Ava discovered that another benefit to attending Principia was her ability to take part in the Society of Women Engineers annual conference. Unlike her friend in the industrial engineering program at Cal Poly, where only a select handful of people could attend due to the large number of students, all Principia chapter members were able to participate.

“It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done in terms of learning what I wanted to do,” she adds. 

The conference is where she discovered her preferred field of research and development. It’s also where she landed an internship with Ecolab, a corporation that uses chemistry, digital technology, and service to advance food safety, maintain clean and safe environments, optimize water and energy use, and improve operational efficiencies and sustainability.

Ava is now working as a formulation chemist at Spectrum Brands, a global consumer-products company whose portfolio includes Cutter, Repel, and Spectracide. She conducts research and development for new products, which includes researching new active ingredients and making formulas in the lab for testing. She interacts with everyone from a human-centered design engineer and active-ingredient chemist to packaging engineers, regulatory officials, and the marketing team.

Ava feels that her chemistry degree was everything it needed to be and that her work as a Summer Research Assistant at Principia was a key talking point in getting internships at larger companies. She values the technical experience of her chemistry professor and continues to stay in touch with him.

Ava points to her involvement outside the classroom for influencing how she conducts herself as a professional. She was inspired by her cross country and track and field coaches and learned to manage her time better through her roles in the Public Affairs Conference, student government, the College Christian Science Organization, on house boards, and as a resident assistant.

Must-Take Course: Old Testament—I didn’t know that much about the Bible, but the professor made it super interesting.

Favorite Prin Moment: During orientation week, the resident assistants came up with a script and choreographed it. I’m not a theater person—keep me off the stage—but I had so much fun doing the dance.

Advice for Incoming Students: Be open-minded. I didn’t run in high school and didn’t plan on it, but I ended up trying it and loved it.

Ava Eco Lab