Creating Sustainable Resources Through Chemistry

Keuka College alumna Brianna Coia ’18 says her Field Period experience gave her “the skills I needed to begin a successful career.”

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Creating Sustainable Resources Through Chemistry

A Field Period® internship at a Penn Yan chemical manufacturer changed Brianna Coia’s major, career path, and life’s work.

Someday, it may even change the sustainability of plastic products, reducing the amount of everyday products that end up in landfills.

That’s because Brianna’s post-graduate studies and current position with the global firm Birla Carbon have focused on developing more sustainable plastic and rubber products.

It all started when the 2018 Keuka College graduate landed a Field Period placement at Penn Yan-based Ferro Corporation, a firm that develops environmentally responsible products such as polishes, pigments, and coatings. The experience led to a long-term position as a contractor.
“My first Field Period was in Quality Control, and my second in Research and Development,” said Brianna. “That’s where I also spent my long-term job. I helped analyze and research potential ways to improve their products, including a type of polish used on chips for cell phones and other electronics. It was really fun.”
Brianna enjoyed her experience at Ferro so much that she changed her major. Formerly an education major with a chemistry focus, she developed a student-initiated major focused more on chemistry.

Brianna Coia posing on a bridge above water

"Through Field Period, I learned that I liked the research part more than the teaching part. Not only did I like research, I excelled at it! My new major involved more problem-solving and critical thinking but still involved some teaching, which I liked.”

Brianna Coia '18

She had the encouragement of her professors, especially Dr. Andrew Robak, professor of chemistry.

“He was not just my advisor, but also a mentor, taught some of my classes and helped me get my student-initiated major approved,” said Brianna. “He was great. [Chair of the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and Professor of Chemistry] Dr. Mike Keck and [Professor Emeritus] Dr. Tom Carroll also helped me so much. They were all phenomenal. It meant so much to have that one-on-one time with them, and that personal attention was incredible.”
After graduating from Keuka College, Brianna took her love of research to graduate school at Florida State University, where she focused on a streamlined approach to sustainable plastics, including testing applications for pine sap-based plastic.
Her research aimed to help reduce costs, materials, time, energy, and waste in making more sustainable plastics. These efforts landed her a job at high-tech manufacturer Birla Carbon in Marietta, Ga., where she’s making sustainable additives for rubber applications.

“I believe I made the most of my Field Period opportunities. I was able to do something in college that helped inform everything relating to my future,” said Brianna. 

"Field Period allowed me to gain the skills I needed to begin a successful career."

Brianna Coia '18

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