From Undeclared Major to Presenting Chemistry Research at an International Conference: Nathan Tortos ‘25 Finds his Calling

Nathan Tortos '25 works in Professor Bhanu Chauhan's lab in Science Hall West

William Paterson University’s Nathan Tortos ‘25 presented his on-campus chemistry research at an international conference in France this summer, among some of the field’s top scientists from around the world.

He was the only undergraduate college student chosen to present his research at the 10th Annual European Silicon Chemistry Conference. His topic? “A Systematic Investigation of Platinum Nanoparticle Catalyzed Polymerization and Characterization of Aromatic Silanes.”

Chemists from other institutions, upon learning that Tortos had only just completed his sophomore year as an undergraduate, would go from surprise to offering him congratulations, he explains.

“When I’d say ‘sophomore,’ they’d think I was a sophomore master’s student and I’d have to explain that I’m working on my bachelor’s,” Tortos says with a laugh. “It’s rare – for me to have gotten the chance to do what I did.”

But he did it, thanks to plenty of WP-fueled opportunity and passion.

When Tortos, a native of Prospect Park, New Jersey, arrived at WP as a freshman, he was undecided about a major. A friend from his hometown was pursuing a master’s degree in chemistry at WP and was often busy working in the nanomaterials lab of chemistry professor and chairperson Bhanu Chauhan. Tortos would hang out in the lab, waiting for his friend to give him a ride home, and little by little, he started learning about and helping with lab research. It wasn’t long before Tortos was hooked. He found his calling, and in it, his academic major and his faculty mentor.

After some time shadowing in the lab and learning various lab techniques with Professor Chauhan's guidance, Tortos began work on his own research project, which was supported financially by the College of Science and Health's ASPIRE program. His results were so impressive that, even as an undergraduate student, his abstract was accepted for presentation in the international conference. He attended with Professor Chauhan.

“I was always in the science building, always around the chemistry professors, and I got to know them all,” Tortos says. He subsequently got to learn about and use all the high-tech equipment in the chemistry department’s labs as a freshman and sophomore—an opportunity for which he is especially thankful. “It never hurts to ask,” he says. “At larger universities, that wouldn’t happen. You wouldn’t get to use the machines; you’d hand your samples off to a middleman.”

Tortos is now president of the Chemistry Club on campus and works in Professor Chauhan’s lab to mentor freshmen and transfer students through the College of Science and Health’s ASPIRE program.

He aspires to go straight into a PhD program in chemistry after graduating from WP, with dreams of working in the pharmaceutical industry and starting his own company.

His advice to fellow Pioneers?

“The buildings here have meaning. Stay by the art building if you are interested in art; stay by the science building if you have an interest in science. Surround yourself with people who have the same passions as you and you’ll get pulled in.”