Q&A: Zack Benesh on Being One of Wentworth’s Inaugural Applied Sciences Graduates
On August 20, Zack Benesh will take the stage at Wentworth Institute of Technology’s 2:30 p.m. Summer Commencement ceremony as featured student speaker. He will no doubt share an inspiring message with his fellow graduates, but he will also do it as a first of his kind at the university.
Benesh will be among the cohort of inaugural graduates from Wentworth’s Applied Sciences program. Students in the program follow the scientific systems learning model and earn a hands-on education in chemistry, biology, and physics en route to a high-earning career in the sciences industry.
We spoke to Benesh ahead of commencement to ask more about Applied Sciences at Wentworth and what he plans to do after August.
Greg Abazorius: How does it feel to be a part of the first graduating class for Applied Sciences?
Zack Benesh: There is certainly pride that comes with it. There is also a sense of responsibility that comes with it too.
Abazorius: Is there extra pride that comes with helping to forge a new path for Wentworth?
Benesh: I see myself as sort of a trailblazer. I get to help define what the major will be going forward, but I also have a duty to kick the door of opportunity open as wide as possible for those who come after. It's what inspired me to take so much on in my final years here.
Abazorius: What would you say of Applied Sciences at Wentworth in general? How was your experience?
Benesh: I’m going to quote one of my classmates here and say that the Applied Science major is a hidden gem. In terms of the types of classes we take and the breadth of topics and ideas we explore, there is nothing else like it at Wentworth. I chose Applied Sciences because I wanted to go to college for both physics and chemistry. I got that here, plus a whole education in biology as well. I've come out of this major feeling like I could take on any science or research job that I want to.
Abazorius: Tell me a little about the co-ops you did and what stood out for you.
Benesh: I took both my co-ops at the same place [Rapiscan Systems]. There, I was on the R&D team and helped test and develop explosives detectors for airline security purposes. I found the experience eye opening because I had a chance to learn what a research position might look like outside of academia and learn that industry is certainly an option open to me if I want to take it.
Abazorius: I know you were active in chorus and other Colleges of the Fenway offerings. Does the COF partnership help set Wentworth apart, in your mind, because of the different possibilities it offers?
Benesh: COF definitely is a perk of Wentworth, not just for extracurriculars or electives, but also to support core classes as well. For instance, in order to graduate on time, I needed to take a class that wasn’t available at the right time for me here at Wentworth. The dean’s office for my major helped me find an acceptable COF alternative at MCPHS so I didn’t have to end up taking another semester.
Benesh won Wentworth’s 2023 best science writing award for his capstone proposal, “Machine Learning Approaches to Liquid Metal Battery Design,” as well as the Wentworth alumni award for the highest GPA in his major.
Abazorius: What is one project you worked on at Wentworth that stands out for you, or you're most proud of?
Benesh: I've done a lot of research projects, both as a part of classes and as a part of extracurricular student research. If I had to pick a favorite, I would probably say my capstone. It is my largest project by far in terms of scope and design, plus I was essentially the project’s lead. I got to pick the topic and, with some input from my advisor, the direction of the project as well. I would liken it to what you would probably see in terms of a graduate thesis, though a lot smaller due to the shorter timeline. I found it useful as a learning experience.
Abazorius: Would you recommend the Applied Sciences program to others?
Benesh: Definitely, especially to anyone who knows they want to do research but isn't yet sure what topic or field they want to go into. The Applied Sciences major is pretty much unparalleled in terms of job readiness for any research career, and Boston is a great place for research as well.
Abazorius: What are you doing next?
Benesh: In the short term, I was offered a full-time position by my co-op, so I'll be working with them some more in airline security. In the long term, I want to get a PhD in chemistry. I'm currently interested in the materials science field and in renewable energy technologies.