Zachary Tollefson finds chemistry “fun but challenging”

A double major in chemistry and chemical engineering keeps Clifford I. and Nancy C. Anderson Scholarship recipient Zachary Tollefson busy, but he is enjoying every minute of it.

Tollefson, who is from Rosemount, Minn., chose the University of Minnesota because of its well-known chemical engineering department, but also the atmosphere.

“I knew I would be receiving an excellent education, [and] to me, more than the other colleges I visited, the people around here seemed more down to Earth, so I really appreciated that,” Tollefson said.

With a physics teacher as a father, Tollefson’s love for science and math is no surprise. “In elementary school I had fun solving math and science problems. It was the most interesting subject and that carried on until high school when I got really interested in chemistry and math.” Tollefson said.

That curiosity for problem solving has served Tollefson well at the University of Minnesota. He had the chance to spend two semesters performing research in organometallic chemistry, but it was during a summer internship with Exxon Mobil that he discovered his passion.

“During my internship, I was mainly doing process engineering work, and I found it fun, challenging, interesting. I can see myself doing that full time in a career,” Tollefson said.

He valued the high-level, hands-on experience he gained working in process engineering at ExxonMobil. He was tasked with developing a solution to improve efficiency in a refinery unit that wasn’t performing properly and to bring it up to specifications. The internship ended with a proposal to implement a solution in the future, and left Tollefson with a clear plan to work in a similar role in the oil and natural gas industry after graduation.

Tollefson also keeps busy competing in Triathalons and participates in the Honors Mentor Program where he mentors a freshman student in the College of Science and Engineering.

“I am extremely grateful to the donors for the gift they’ve given me. I owe a lot of where I am to the scholarship I received,” Tollefson said.

If you are interested in supporting the College of Science and Engineering with your financial gift, you can make a donation now.