ChemE’s Sarah Gill Embarks on a Navy Career Specializing in Nuclear Propulsion

For Sarah Gill, the U.S. Navy is like the family business. With serving community and country never in doubt, a chemical engineering degree was the perfect link between a Navy career and her passion to pursue sustainable and renewable energy.

Sarah Gill, B.S. chemical engineering, 2021

Sarah Gill, a 2021 graduate of the UVA chemical engineering program, received her Navy commission on May 20, 2021.

You’re off to join the Navy. What does that entail?

On May 20, 2021, I will commission as a surface warfare officer (nuclear option) in the United States Navy. In March, I had three interviews for the nuclear option track, two technical and one with the four-star admiral in charge of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. I passed and was accepted into the program. This means that after graduation, I will attend Surface Warfare Officer School (and possibly other specialty schools) before heading to my first ship. After I qualify as a surface warfare officer on that ship, I will attend Nuclear Power School.

Why did you choose the Navy?

I grew up around the Navy. My grandfather, father, uncle, aunt and others in my family have all served in the military. Serving my country as a naval officer is something I have wanted to do for a long time. Giving back to my community and country is very important to me, and I believe every person has an obligation to serve in some capacity when possible, and make a difference in the world.

What has the screening process been like?

The Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) scholarship program involves an application, math evaluation and fitness assessment, which are then reviewed by a selection board. Once selected, I had to be medically qualified prior to the activation of the scholarship. The academic standards are rigorous and are usually higher than the college you are attending. In addition to my chemical engineering coursework, I had to take courses required by the Navy (about 27 additional credits). Minus the pandemic, there are also summer training sessions. After graduation, I will have a service commitment of at least five years.

What are some of your honors, awards and activities during your time at UVA?

Honors/Awards: Excellence in Military Science Award: National Society, Daughters of Founders and Patriots of America; A. Thomas Young Scholarship; Eugene and Mary Rowan Scholarship

Activities: NROTC battalion executive officer (2nd in command) 2020-2021; NROTC logbook editor 2019-2020; NROTC wardroom training coordinator 2019; NROTC battalion squad leader 2018-2019; Virginia Women’s Chorus member

Internships/employment/training: Submarine Summer Cruise 2019 at Naval Submarine Base, Bangor, Washington; Women in Naval Service Symposium 2019 at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; NROTC Career Orientation Training for Midshipmen (CORTRAMID) 2018: Summer training at Naval Station Norfolk (Virginia), Naval Base Point Loma (California) and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (North Carolina), a four-week program designed to introduce midshipmen to different communities within the Navy, such as aviation, surface warfare, submarines and the Marine Corps; American Red Cross-trained senior lifeguard, Ida Lee Recreation Center, Leesburg, Virginia; volunteer assistant youth swim team coach, the Ida Lee Eeliminators

Sarah Gill, B.S. chemical engineering, 2021

Sarah Gill, B.S. chemical engineering, 2021

What undergraduate research did you participate in, and who was your advisor?

My capstone project was ‘Green Concrete: Use of Oxy-fuel Combustion and Accelerated Carbonation Curing for Carbon Capture and Storage in Concrete Manufacturing.’ My advisor was (chemical engineering) professor Eric Anderson.

Why did you choose UVA Engineering?

UVA has an excellent and diverse engineering program that was in line with my interests. I can’t explain why, but after visiting Grounds, it just felt like the right fit.

Why did you choose a degree in chemical engineering? Why are you glad you did?

Chemical engineering is a versatile and multi-disciplinary field. Learning about how the world functions on a chemical level is quite interesting. Also, I was inspired by the direction of the department’s research projects.

I am glad I majored in chemical engineering because it is a perfect fit for my career in the Navy, and it helped me to realize my passion for sustainable and renewable energy.

What was the best part of your education at UVA?

My chemical engineering professors really surprised me. I thought all of my professors when I got to college were going to be fairly stuffy, but they were extremely funny and human.

Where is your favorite place on Grounds? Why?

This may sound cliché, but my favorite place on Grounds is the Rotunda study room (Dome Room). When you sit there and think about all the people who came before you, walked where you are throughout history — it just hits you and you can feel just how very special this place is.

Do you have a favorite UVA memory?

I have three favorite UVA memories: Lighting of the Lawn; the ‘Concert for Charlottesville: An Evening of Music and Unity’ event in September 2017; and the men’s basketball national championship win in April 2019.