After graduating with bachelor's degrees from Concordia in 2005, Evan and April (Downs) Neidholdt launched into successful careers at Caltech and the space industry.
Evan earned a PhD and works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) helping to create instruments for the next Mars rover. April helped to manage multi-million dollar Caltech research projects in the field of renewable energy.
“I got a great education at Concordia and great preparation in science,” Evan says while visiting Concordia and the chemistry lab he helped to build on a recent weekend. “I was ready for classes at Caltech which were some of most challenging I’ve taken.”
Evan and April double majored at Concordia, he in chemistry and math, she in behavioral science and psychology. Evan was studying to be a high school math teacher when Concordia professor John Kenney invited him to conduct undergraduate science research and build the chemistry lab from scratch. Together, they fetched donated equipment from other states, set up and repaired countless instruments and machines, painted the dark room for laser use, and much more.
“Getting experience in the lab at Concordia was so helpful,” Evan says. “Anyone wanting an edge going into grad school should get involved in undergraduate research. It’s a lot of hard work, perseverance and character-building.”
While Evan earned his PhD in chemistry at Caltech (officially, California Institute of Technology), April earned her MBA from the University of Redlands and worked for a Caltech professor who is a leading figure in the science of renewable energy. She became the day-to-day administrator for major research grants at Caltech, starting with an $11.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation, and helped to host U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu when he visited her professor’s research lab.
“Every day was exciting and amazing,” April says. “At Caltech you’re often interacting with Nobel laureates. My experience at Concordia, where the professors are so approachable, helped me be calm, cool and collected, and to have good rapport with the faculty.”