Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Elements of success

John Ahern ’10 joins Los Alamos National Laboratory as staff scientist

John Ahern ’10At Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, John Ahern ’10 is in his element.

Working as a scientist at this national security-focused lab, he leverages his knowledge around elements to help the U.S. government safely process aging plutonium so it can be suitable for later use. This work also decreases the volume and therefore the  cost of disposing of high-activity, residue-laden waste, according to Ahern.

“I am incredibly fortunate and proud to be able to conduct this research in service of the nation. My work has yielded publications and patent filings that have real-world applications, which I believe will improve the safety and security of America and its citizens,” he said.

Ahern, who majored in environmental science at Wheaton, joined Los Alamos National Laboratory in June 2016 some time after obtaining his Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Maine. As part of his studies in Maine, he also looked to lessen environmental impacts of toxic substances—but in that work, hazardous pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals in water were the targets. 

“Many of these contaminants, such as synthetic estrogen, can pose a threat to aquatic and amphibious species even at low concentrations,” he said.

After completing his doctorate, Ahern conducted research at the National Energy Technology Lab (NETL) in the Greater Pittsburgh area. There, he studied rare earth elements—a set of 17 chemical elements in the periodic table—that are used in modern electronics, including cell phones, cars and wind turbines. [Read more...]

Strengthening families

Alicia Alvarez ’15 serves as intervention specialist at Youth Villages

Alicia Alvarez ’15A healthy and happy life begins at home.

As a family intervention specialist at the nonprofit Youth Villages in Woburn, Mass., Alicia Alvarez ’15 works directly with clients to help them achieve stability, both as individuals and as a family.

“Children are better raised by their families, and we focus on creating interventions that can improve the family dynamics, taking a strength-based perspective,” said Alvarez, a psychology major at Wheaton, who earned her master’s degree in human development and psychology at Harvard.

At Youth Villages, Alvarez provides counseling to families and individuals both in their home and in residential settings. She creates treatment and safety plans, enabling families to develop skills necessary to thrive. She works closely on cases referred to her by the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Youth Services. As a member of the bilingual team, she serves primarily low-income Hispanic families.  [Read more...]

Backstage in spotlight

Colin McNamee ’04 shines behind the scenes

Colin McNamee ’04 Behind every theater production at Wheaton is stagecraft and lighting mastermind Colin McNamee ’04.

The alum, who majored in studio art at Wheaton, graduated more than 10 years ago, but after working in various theaters and venues, he has found his way back on campus as an instructor and technical director.

“After working at a few other institutions—including several academic ones—I find that Wheaton stands out as a kind and generous place. I don’t know of any other place like it,” McNamee said.

As a student, McNamee secured a federal work-study position under former theater manager and technical director Jeffrey Mailhot. “This is where I got most of my technical training, up through graduation,” McNamee said.

In this role, he worked in the shop to build sets like a massive staircase that filled the whole stage for the production Antigone and a two-story house for the play Tartuffe. [Read more...]

Welcome new board members

Meet the new members of the Alumnae/i Association Board of Directors (ABD)—highly engaged graduates who have been involved with the college in many ways, from serving as class officers and on committees to attending Reunions and other events:

Shawn Blake ’98

[Read more...]