SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Every time Chad Sauvola ’15 conducts research in a biology lab, he feels like he’s privy to a secret.

“The lab is the place where research that no one else knows about is going on,” says Sauvola, South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (SCICU) 2014 J. Lacy McLean Award winner, recognizing him as the organization’s student of the year. “Working at the interface of knowledge is an absolutely addictive thing.”

In addition to spending three years in biology labs at Wofford College, Sauvola just returned from a summer internship in a molecular neuroscience lab at MIT. The research was designed to help develop a critical tool that’s “missing from the molecular science tool box.”  Sauvola spent the summer before that in a similar lab at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Now he is in Denmark for a semester abroad, where, because of a contact he made at MIT, he will be conducting research in yet another lab at the University of Copenhagen.  

“This is what I want to do,” says Sauvola, who plans to enroll in a Ph.D. program in molecular biology after he graduates from Wofford. His first choice is MIT, but he’s also considering Harvard, Yale and Princeton.  

Sauvola enjoys a challenge. In addition to majoring in biology at Wofford, he is working toward an art history major as well.  

"I like to be as broadly knowledgeable as possible,” he says. “Art history is difficult for me because of the subjectivity. There’s no completely right answer, so I have to think differently. … When I'm with the art historians I feel like an art historian, to the same extent that I feel like a biologist when around other biologists. Wearing multiple hats has been a growing experience, and I feel privileged to have been able to do it. It's been one of the most significant defining characteristics of my Wofford education.”

Dr. Karen Goodchild, associate professor and chair of the Department of Art and ArtHistory at Wofford, calls Sauvola a “rare bird,” who excels equally in the humanities and sciences.

“Chad is among the most intellectually curious students I have ever taught, and his careful questions are unforgettable additions to any course. He challenges me to be a better professor,” writes Goodchild in her SCICU recommendation for Sauvola’s award.

Dr. Stacey Hettes, vice chair of the program in neuroscience and associate professor of biology, agrees.

“He has the wisdom of a seasoned scientist, the compassion of an NGO worker, and is a delightful young man to work and interact with,” says Hettes. “I respect him at the level of a colleague and fellow scholar.”

Sauvola also plays piano and is an active member of Beta Beta Beta Biological HonorSociety.

“For me, college has been incredibly important, and it wouldn’t have been possible without scholarships and financial aid from sources such as the South Carolina Tuition Grant,” says Sauvola. “I’m very thankful that I’ve gotten the opportunity to be in this type of environment where I’m challenged and pushed to learn as much as I can.”

Sauvola, the son of Amy and Mark Sauvola of Greer, S.C., will miss the SCICU board meeting and awards luncheon, which will be held on Wofford’s campus on Sept. 24. Instead he will be doing what he loves best: studying the environmental science of the Arctic and continuing to delve into the secrets of micro biology in the lab in Copenhagen.

According to Sauvola, there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.

The J.Lacy McLean Award is presented each year to the Independent College Student of the Year in memory of J. Lacy McLean, the first executive secretary of SCICU.