â€œBut I would always get to a certain point in biology where I would have a deeper question, and that always came down to chemistry,â€ he said. Gradually, Spray came to view it as the branch of science where knowledge achieves depth but has the real-world advantage of being "applications-based."
For the past seven years, he has been working on those applications in the Natick, Mass., offices of Exponent, a company where scientists and engineers serve as problem-solvers for technical problems faced by manufacturers and other clients.
Spray, who went on to earn his Ph.D. in chemistry from Purdue University, works as a managing scientist in Exponent's Polymer Science and Materials Chemistry Division. Itâ€™s a job in which he spends most of his time analyzing what can, will and does go wrong when battery systems are used or abused â€“ and how to prevent that from happening.
Lead-acid batteries in cars and lithium ion batteries aside, he said, â€œThere are a lot of (battery) chemistries out on the market, a lot of them in markets consumers don't see. One is outer space, â€œwhich is not where you want to have a failure,â€ he said.
His view that chemistry will play â€œa large partâ€ in burgeoning nanotechnologies is not original. But making that happen â€œis not just in the science,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s in the communication of the science to the publicâ€ so that it can understand and accept the technology.
While Spray doesnâ€™t list being a WUSO DJ on his professional resume, or that he served as president of his fraternity, he admits that the Wittenberg experience â€œreally rounded meâ€ as a person, providing a balance important in his professional life.
Although â€œgraduate school is definitely a place where you can drill down, if you donâ€™t have that broader experience in being able to relate and communicateâ€ he said, â€œit can change you in a way I was not looking to change.â€
A changed job assignment now has him serving on committees, attending trade shows and suggesting research topics in an effort to identify new business for Exponent.
For that, Spray is learning not only the science he studied at Wittenberg but an applications-based branch of chemistry he also learned while on campus: interpersonal chemistry.